TUKWILA, Wash. — Thirty years after the first flight of a pioneering reusable rocket ship known as the Delta Clipper Experimental, or DC-X, a commercial venture is aiming to bring its legacy to life in the Seattle area. Even its name — New Frontier Aerospace — is a callback to the earlier days of America’s space effort, going back to John F. Kennedy references to outer space as part of his “New Frontier.”
“We’re sort of like the grandson of DC-X,” New Frontier’s co-founder and CEO, Bill “Burners” Bruner, said at the startup’s headquarters in Tukwila.
But he doesn’t see New Frontier as a space launch venture in the strictest sense of the word. “We’re not doing the squat, or cylindrical or conical shapes that we were talking about in those days,” he told me. “We’re proposing to combine the hypersonic research of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and some of those geometries, with reusable rockets to attack the trillion-dollar air transportation market instead of the $11 billion space launch market.”