Northrop Grumman might be "playing to win" the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's XS-1 programme, but the aerospace firm's interest in a reusable spaceplane for rapidly launching small satellites runs far deeper than any one project or contract.
The company's vice-president of space systems resiliency Doug Young tells Flightglobal that Northrop will likely press forward with its XS-1 concept through "other ways and means" if it isn't downselected for the programme's $140 million demonstration phase.
Northrop is one of three industry teams sponsored by DARPA to bring its competing concept up to the preliminary design review stage. It's teamed with Virgin Galactic but wouldn't confirm if it is using the company's LauncherOne system as an expendable upper stage.
The other teams are Boeing – with Blue Origin – and Masten Space Systems, partnered with XCOR Aerospace.