FleaPlus writes: The Air Force is initiating a pathfinder program to develop a first-stage rocket booster capable of gliding back to a runway so it can be easily reused. Lockheed Martin has already launched a secretive prototype, as well as a Cal Poly team with a prototype based on Buzz Aldrin's Starcraft/StarBooster design (video). The Air Force estimates such a booster could cut launch costs by 50% over the current Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets, and could also offer a rapid surge/replacement capability if combined with reusable spacecraft like the recently-launched X-37B. Initial test flights are planned for 2013.
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