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The National Aerospace Plane (NASP) program plans were to develop an experimental aircraft, the X-30, to explore the entire hypersonic velocity flight range. The program's objectives included support of future national security, civil applications, and a reduction in the costs of space launch. This Executive Summary provides an independent assessment of the NASP program. The report discusses a number of features that should be included in demonstration programs with the goal of proving that relevant technologies are sufficiently mature to support the development of vehicles capable of hypersonic missions over a range of flight goals, including, but not restricted to, the special X-30 case as originally proposed (single stage to orbit, very major reliance on multicycle air heating engines.) This Executive Summary includes a review of the early NASP program, from which the authors draw several conclusions concerning NASP, then presents a comparative assessment of NASP's role in the military, and a discussion of missions. This is followed by discussion of critical considerations in technology, prudent risk management, cost estimates, and programmatic issues.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation report series. The report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1993 that represented the principal publication documenting and transmitting RAND's major research findings and final research.

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