STTOs: The Answer to a Thousand Dreams

What Ever Happened To Reusable Launch Vehicles
Space Daily

The simple truth is that we do not know how to make reusables and we cannot make a good business case for them. Many have tried, but all have failed. Most recently NASA spent over one billion dollars trying to build a scaled down technology demonstrator, the X-33.

This was to be the forerunner for a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle, VentureStar. In 2000, after several years of trying to build the demonstrator, the program was shut down. The needed technology was simply not ready.

Walter Kistler started a reusable launch vehicle company around 1993 to pursue a two-stage-to-orbit, fully reusable vehicle. Kistler Aerospace raised over $500 million in private funds and proceeded to construct the first prototype, the K-1.

But, the vehicle got too expensive and the perceived market disappeared when Iridium filed for bankruptcy at the turn of the century. Kistler Aerospace was liquidated before completing that first vehicle.

Read the full analysis.