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Reusable Launch & Space Vehicles
Project Table

Latest update: November 6, 2008

Blue Origin's Goddard vehicle
(Credits: Blue Origin)
Blue Origin's Goddard prototype VTOL vehicle returns to the
hangar after a test flight in November 2006.

The table below provides brief descriptions of a SUBSET of fully and partially reusable launch and space vehicles (RLSV) projects, present and past. The table will be updated and modified periodically as projects come and go.

This list mostly includes vehicle projects that seem to be active to some degree. (Active can mean hardware development at least on the prototype level, announcements of funding, etc.) Emphasis is on vehicles that intend to pursue commercial markets such as space tourism, science/education payloads, high altitude imaging,etc.

Note: here the term reusable space vehicle refers to a vehicle, crewed or not, that is released in space from, for example, a shuttle or launched on top of an expendable and then operates in space. When it is fiinished, it will de-orbit, return to earth, and be launched again for another mission. For example, the space station crew rescue vehicle (CTV), for which the X-38 is a prototype, would fall in this category. The table focuses on private development but mentions NASA/Military projects and some government projects outside the US near the end.

Other resources:


Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle Projects
Subortbital: Spaceplanes - horizontal takeoff & landing
Company/Group Vehicle Design Est. Payload & Price/Flight Cost/Schedule*/ Status
EADS Astrium Rocketplane 2 jet engines & one rocket engine, reaches altitudes over 100km
after takeoff from airport.

4 passengers + 1 pilot / 150k-200k EURO

Need to raise about 1B EURO to finance development.
Myasishchev Design Bureau /
Space Adventures /
Prodea Systems

Air launch from M-55X, lifting body crew vehicle. Type of rocket system not publicized

5 seat to 100km

In design.
Report Oct.06
Suspended while awaiting funding

Project Enterprise
( TALIS Institute, Swiss Propulsion Lab)
Enterprise Single stage, 3 LOX/Kerosene engines pilot + 3 passengers to 100-130km In design with target of 2011 for test flights, 2013 for weekly commercial flight. Links

Single stage, pilot and one passenger side by side.
4 LOX/Kerosenerocket engines, no jets

Mark I - to
Mark II to

First flight planned for mid 2011.
Links FAQ

Suborbital: Vertical Takeoff & Horizontal or Parachute Landing
Company/Group Vehicle Design Est. Performance & Price/Flight Cost/Schedule/
Advent Launch Services


1 stage, Vertical takeoff from ocean, glide to horizontal water landing ~300kgs to 100km $?/
engine tests
C&Space Proteus
Single stage,
Vertical launch, horizontal landing. LOX/Methane with turbopump. Mobile launch system.
3 passengers, ? Price/flight info. As of 2009 still developing engine. Looking for irframe partner to design vehicle.
Garvey Spacecraft Prospector Series Unmanned vertical launch vehicles, recovered via parachute Small payloads Several launches of test vehicles to low altitudes. Misc. contracts.


Single booster Crew capsule unpowered.
Two LOX / Kerosine engine.
Parachute recovery for booster and capsule
200kgs to 100km.
$100k - $250k
per flight

$? / ? /
Engine tests underway. Overview

Suborbital: Balloon or Air Launch First Stage
ARCA Stablio
High altitude balloon launch. Crew capsule is mounted below booster which uses thrusters on nose of the vehicle. Single passenger to 100km
Price TBD
$? / ?yr /
Misc. tests so far. Suborbital test expect in 2010
da Vinci Project
Dream Space Group
XF1 Vehicle carried by balloon to 21.3km for launch. 3,300-pound thrust, liquid fueled engine.
Glide landing.
222kgs to 110km
Price TBD
Scaled Composites
SpaceShipTwo Air launched from White Knight 2. Two pilots + 6 passenger vehicle intended for commercial space tourism. Passengers pay $200k each.

Funded by Virgin Galactic. WK2 rolled out late 2008. SS2 rolled out in Dec 2009. Captive carry & drop tests took place in 2010. First rocket powered tests expected in early 2011. Passenger flights in late 2011 or early 2012 timeframe.

Suborbital: Vertical Takeoff & Landing
Company/Group Vehicle Design Est. Performance & Price/Flight Cost/Schedule*/ Status
Armadillo Aerospace Modular vehicle used to win Lunar Lander Challenge 2008 Single stage, vertical takeoff and landing designs using in house designed liquid fueled engines. Combine modules to achieve higher altitudes and larger payloads.
Early designs will be unmanned, small payload, working up to manned versions. Very low cost.

Prototype flights underway. Modular flights to high altitudes in 2009.
See interview with John Carmack from Oct.2008,

Blue Origin

New Shepard
- operational vehicle

- prototype


Suborbital, booster stage + crew capsule, vertical takeoff and landing with hydrogen peroxide/kerosene engines, with powered landing. (Goddard uses peroxide only.)
See summary of Enviro. Impact Report.)
3 or more passenger to 100km, up to 52 flights per year. Goddard flew for first time in November 2006. 2 more untethered flights in 2007. New prototype under construction. Company intends for a series of prototypes leading to test flights in 2010, remote control tests in 2011, passenger flights in 2012
Masten Space Systems XA-1.0
Unmanned suborbital, single stage, VTOL
Liquid fueled rockets developed by the company will provide vertical takeoff and landing. 100kg to over 100km.
Multiple flights per day for
$20k-30K per flight

XA-0.1B-750. prototype flew in April 2009.
/Blog updates /Long term development plan

TGV Rockets

Single Stage
Liquid fueled engines from commercial supplier.
Air brake or ballute slows vehicle during reentry for rocket powered touch down
1000kgs to 100km
$1M per flight

$100M / ? /
Design has passed advanced design reviews

Orbital - Active
Company Vehicle Design Est. Performance & Price/Flight Cost / Schedule*/ Status
SpaceX Falcon 9/
Dragon Capsule
Falcon 9 uses 2 stage, liquid oxygen and kerosene (RP-1). Stages recovered at sea for re-use. Can launch cargo only module or crew capsule Falcon 9 - Pricing and Performance

COTS funding plus private total in the $500M range/First Falcon 9 flight in Spring 2010/
Updates, Images,

PlanetSpace Silver Dart
Based on the NASA FDL-7 hypersonic glider concept.
Launched atop a cluster of boosters derived from the Canadian Arrow rockets.
8 passengers
No info on price
Lost bid for COTS Phase 1 contract. Pursued COTS Phase 2 in 2008 but lost.
Spaceports in Nova Scotia and Ohio in discussion. Doing scale model flying of Dart
Dream Chaser Vertical launch, horizontal landing. Could launch on existing rocket such as Atlas V.
Derived from NASA HL-20 lifting body design.
Up to 6 passengers or all cargo/ Price est. not released In collaboration with Lockheed-Martin. Won $20M in NASA CCDev funding for 2010.
Suborbital - Canceled or Inactive
Arrow / PlanetSpace
Canadian Arrow

(A suborbital version of the Silver Dart (below) has also been discussed.
V-2 based design 57,000-lb thrust liquid propellant engine for
stage 1.
4-solid rockets propel
stage 2
Parachute - water landing for both stages
3 passengers
Price TBD
Appears that the Canadian Arrow suborbital project has been dropped by PlanetSpace.
Orbital - Canceled or Inactive
Kelly Space Astroliner 2-Stage  (Stage 2 non-reusable) 
Horizontal Takeoff 
(with tow assist) & Landing
Did protoype work on towed assist but then became inactive
Pathfinder 2-stage. First stage winged vehicle takesoff under turbo-fan power. Rendezvous with tanker to load LOX. Then fires rocket to 150km where it releases expendable 2nd stage for taking payload to orbit. Dropped in favor of Rocketplane XP design for suborbital, Kistler K-1 for orbital.
Rocketplane Global Pathfinder XP Early Learjet derived vehicle replaced with new airframe design. 5 passengers + Pilot to 100km. Bankruptcy & liquidation
Rotary Roton Single-Stage-To-Orbit, 
Vertical Takeoff &  Landing
Space Access SA-1 2-Stage: Ramjet first stage,
Horizontal Takeoff  & Landing;
second stage reusable rocket 

Never got past design stage

(Collaboration of several companies including Scaled Composites)
(Crew Transfer Vehicle)
Reusable CXV capsule on air launched 2-stage expendable booster derived from the Quickreach. Larger carrier craft would need to be developed. 4 passengers to LEO. Could return 8 passengers from ISS in emergency. Lost bid for COTS.
Suspended. Links
NASA/Military Vehicle Programs
Program Design Goals Status
Ares 1/Orion Capsule Reusable Orion capsule launched on a two stage Ares 1. First stage uses version of Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster so it may be recoverable Can be used to take a crew to ISS. Eventually Orion will link up with lunar modues launched with Ares 5 for travel to the Moon. Contractors for Ares 1 first stage (ATK) and for Orion (Lockheed-Martin) were selected in 2006. Contractor for 2nd stage will be selected in 2007. First crew flights in 2014 time frame.
See Ares 1 and Orion links.
X-37 Reusable, unmanned, space vehicle Test various technologies and applications of space maneuvering vehicle for military and civilian uses.

This DARPA project carried out some drop tests in 2006. Future plans for the project not released.

NASA/Military Test Vehicle Programs - Canceled or Completed
Program Design Goals Status
Orbital Space Plane (OSP) Lifting body, 7 occupant vehicle, launched on EELV initally. Lower costs for human spaceflight. OSP was the number one goal of NASA vehicle development before Mike Griffin. Would have provided crew rescue by 2010, crew transfer vehicle by 2012.
X-33 Reusable 1-Stage,
Lifting body.
Vertical Takeoff
Glide Landing
Sub-orbital at
Mach 11-13;
Fast turn-around.
Test aerospike engines, lightweight tanks & TPS.

Failure of composite H2 tanks caused severe delays. This plus various other problems caused significant overruns and the project was canceled.

X-34 Reusable 1-stage sub-orbital. Dropped from carrier plane.

Mach 8, altitudes of 250,000 feet.

Fast turnaround,
low costs.
~24 flights in 12months

Canceled after cost growth due to significant late hardware changes. These came after the Mars Lander failure led to review of all major NASA programs. Also, NASA failed to deliver the Fastrac engine. Ref

X-38 Reusable lifting body.
Para-foil Landing. Carried to orbit by shuttle.Test flights via B-52 drop.
Autonomous re-entry & landing
Prove technology for space station crew rescue vehicle (CRV)
Several successfull low altitude drop flights.
Budget overruns in ISS program, however, led to postponment of the CRV.
X-40A 85% scale version of X-37 Test autonomous landing, parafoil, and other technologies needed for X-37 Several drop landings were successful.
Other Government Vehicle Programs Worldwide
Program Design Goals Status
Reusble lifting body. 7m long, 3.8m wingspan, 1200kg Intended for drop tests like X-38 & X-40. Prepare for orbital Phoenix vehicle. German project. Funding approved.
Successful drop test in Esrange in 2004. Links
Reusable lifting body crew capsule for launch on new Angara expenable booster. Modern replacement for the Soyuz capsule. Would hold 6 passengers rather than 3. Development has been postponed due to lack of money. Hoped for cooperation with ESA did not happen. An upgraded Soyuz will be developed first. Links

(Reusable Vehicle Test)

Single Stage,
Vertical takeoff and landing,
Low altitude vehicle intended to test low cost reusable technologies and operations. Project of ISAS, the smaller of the two Japanese space agencies. The Japan Rocket Society also is assisting with the project. No flights since 2003.
Winged spaceplane

Testbed for RLV technologies.

Drop tests from a balloon at 21km were to begin in late 2006.

Vehicles of Historical Interest
Program Design Goals Results

White Knight & SpaceShip-One

Scaled Composites 
(Burt Rutan)

White Knight turbo-fan first stage. 2nd stage hybrid motor powered rocket vehicle with glide landing.
Powered landing for White Knight.

Win the X-PRIZE:
fly pilot + 2 passengers (or equiv. wt.) to 100km 2 times within a week.
~$20-30M/ Reached 100km on June 21, 2004/ Retired after
winning X PRIZE on Oct. 4, 2004
Single Stage,
Vertical takeoff and landing.
Low altitude vehicle that tested low cost reusable technologies and operations. Started as a project in the Missile Defense program. After 5 flights transferred to NASA. Demonstrated that a liquid fueled rocket vehicle could be flown by a small team and turned around between flights in 26 hours. All goals met but vehicle later lost when leg failed to deploy on landing.
See also
Rocketplane Ltd &
Kistler Aerospace

2-Stage: Vertical Takeoff, 
Parachute return; Airbag cushion

2000kg to 200km at $17M per flight with 9 day turnaround

In limbo due to termination of COTS funding after failure to raise $500M
X-15 Reusable rocketplane dropped from B-52 during late 1950s through 1960s.

Provide data on how to deal with transition from atmosphere to near vaccum region and with the high temperatures on reentry

Very successful program.
Nearly 100 flights made over a decade. Big influence on the X-20 Dynasoar program and later the shuttle. See links for further info.




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