Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, on June 27 became the first company to win one of the multiple contracts the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency plans to award under its Experimental Spaceplane-1, or XS-1, program.

The nearly $3 million award, made in response to a solicitation DARPA issued last fall, was announced on the Federal Business Opportunities website. 

Details of Masten’s award were not disclosed and the company’s chief executive, Sean Mahoney, did not respond to a request for comment.

The XS-1 program aims to develop a reusable first stage that could carry an expendable upper stage capable of placing payloads weighing up to 1,800 kilograms into orbit. DARPA is looking for a spaceplane that could debut in 2018 and ultimately fly 10 times in 10 days and boost payloads into low Earth orbit for less than $5 million per launch. 

DARPA is expected to award multiple contracts, worth up to $3 million each, to develop a demonstration concept ready to go through preliminary design review in early 2015. DARPA then intends to select a single spaceplane concept by the end of 2015 to receive up to $140 million for a second- and third-round effort that would culminate with a 2018 orbital launch.

Follow Mike on Twitter: @Gruss_SN


DARPA Space Budget Increase Includes $27M for Spaceplane

DARPA’s XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane Call for Proposals Eyes a 2018 Liftoff

DARPA To Start Reusable Launch Vehicle Program

Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...