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Boeing picked to help design, build spaceplane with DARPA

The Phantom Express is envisioned as an autonomous spaceplane capable of delivering small satellites into orbit. | Boeing

Boeing Co. will partner with DARPA to design, build and test an autonomous, reusable spaceplane capable of putting small satellites into orbit around the Earth.

The spaceplane, called Phantom Express, is a project of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Chicago-based Boeing’s pick as design partner was announced Wednesday. Boeing and DARPA will jointly invest in the development.

The spaceplane would fly to the edge of space, then return to Earth and land on a runway like a conventional aircraft.

“Phantom Express is designed to disrupt and transform the satellite launch process as we know it today, creating a new, on-demand space-launch capability that can be achieved more affordably and with less risk,” Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said in a news release.