The technological feasibility of a sub-orbital spaceplane traces back more than 40 years with the success of the X-15. The X-15 was a joint program of NASA, the Air Force, the Navy, and North American Aviation. It successfully reached an altitude of 67 miles and achieved a speed of Mach 6.7.
Rocketplane Global has built on this knowledge and, with recent advances in computer and material sciences, developed the capability to build a cost-effective sub-orbital vehicle. The company has selected key partners with decades of experience working with NASA, the Department of Defense, and the aerospace industry in airframe design, thermal protection systems, and advanced propulsion.
Our XS design is based on $40 million spent in development of the Pathfinder satellite launch vehicle and in development of the XP. The XS is a modified version of the Pathfinder with 2014 - 2016 technology added to improve the performance and reliability. We still have our original chief engineers involved in the design. We are only a few months work from being ready to build it. Our best estimate to build, test and be ready to launch satellites is 3 to 4 years time at a cost of $350 - $400 million. With airport type operations, jet engines for take off and landing, reusable rocket engine for reliable, safe, multiple flights, we can provide rapid launch services at a lower cost, in a shorter time than any of our competition.
The RocketplaneŽ XP vehicle is at the Preliminary Design Phase after years of internal vehicle development. The RocketplaneŽ XP program is ready to get underway with a detailed schedule to achieve operation in three to four years after start of production. Xcor and Virgin Galatic have proven the market is ready for space tourism - but neither are yet flying passengers. If we started construction today, we are likely to have our Rocketplane XP ready before our competition. If they are flying passengers before us, that would still be excellent - there is enough demand to keep three companies busy.