Boeing Cancels Spaceplane as Fourth Quarter Could See $1 Billion Loss

Boeing canceled a vertical takeoff, horizontal landing (VTHL) rocket called the Phantom Express. It was going to be 100 feet (30 m) tall and have a 62 foot (19 m) wingspan. The Phantom express would use an Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine, which was part of the Space Shuttle program. It was to be modified to be reused ten times within ten days and have less than $5 million per launch.

The goal of the program was to be able to rapidly launch small replacement satellites in scenarios where conflict with Russia or China caused existing satellites to be destroyed. The other use case would have been where there was an urgent need to deploy a new kind of satellite in some other military situation.

SpaceX reusable rockets with rapid launch capability would eliminate the need for the spaceplane program.

The Boeing cancellation was caused by the financial losses Boeing is experiencing from the 737 Max grounding and lack of deliveries.

Boeing ended 2019 with negative commercial airplane orders for the first time in decades. They lost orders for 87 airplanes and had more cancellations than new orders. There was a 90 percent drop in orders for 737 models during the year. Other Boeing planes models had a 29 percent drop in new orders.

Boeing stock dropped from about $440 to $315 per share. Revenue in the third quarter was down 20% and net income was down 50%. Analysts expect Boeing’s fourth quarter will be $8.76 billion. This would almost 50% less than 2019Q1. The quarter could have a loss of $900 million to $1 billion vs a positive $2.7 billion in 2019Q1.

DARPA canceled the XS-1 spaceplane development after Boeing dropped out.

Boeing, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, and Masten Space Systems had Phase 1 conceptual design contracts.

The phase 2/3 contract included $146 million in DARPA funding and an unspecified contribution by the company.

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