Many years ago (sometime in the 1990’s) – I remember reading in Popular Science about NASA’s plans to have a re-usable spaceplane that would work like the shuttle but be cheaper to operate and use less resources.
It was a great idea. Prototypes we’re built.
And the project was abandoned and I never heard anything about it again.
That is until a few days ago.
The prototypes had been rusting on a runway at Edwards Airforce Base. But then they were spotted being moved.
According to Wired:
The aviation and space press buzzed last week with the news that NASA had quietly moved its two long-grounded X-34 space planes from open storage at the space agency’s Dryden center — located on Edwards Air Force Base in California — to a test pilot school in the Mojave Desert. At the desert facility, the mid-’90s-vintage, robotic X-34s would be inspected to determine if they were capable of flying again. It seemed that NASA was eying a dramatic return to the business of fast, cheap space access using a reusable, airplane-style vehicle — something the Air Force has enthusiastically embraced with its mysterious X-37B spacecraft.
The truth, it turns out, is a bit more complicated, even confusing — but no less exciting. If everything works out, the X-34s might help pioneer not just an emerging method of accessing space, but a new space-exploration business model, as well.
President Barack Obama’s space policies entail “outsourc[ing] major components of the space program to private industry.” With flyable X-34s at the ready, NASA could lend a hand to companies hoping to expand on Scaled’s and SpaceX’s achievements, and further open up space to explorers … and entrepreneurs. That’s way cooler than just another government-only test program, if you ask us.
This very exciting news and I hope that it turns into something. We definitely need more than one way to get into space and if we had a cheap way to ferry astronauts to the ISS – we wouldn’t have to rely so much on Soyuz for the next few years.
Watch this space!