Could this be the future of space flight? (hat tip: Instapundit) The picture at left is the Lockheed design. Check out the article at PopularMechanics.com.
NASA requested designs for a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), two major teams--one headed by Lockheed Martin and one by Northrop Grumman and Boeing--took on the challenge. The winning concept will be chosen in 2008, and the manned vehicle flown in 2014.
As Glenn notes, the design is reminiscent of the old DynaSoar program initiated in 1957 and cancelled in 1963. Below are some of the designs submitted for that program. The most popular were the Martin-Bell and Boeing designs. The X-20A or, Dyna-Soar (Dynamic Soarer) was asupposed to be a single-pilot manned reusable spaceplane, and was the earliest American manned space project to result in development contracts.
Politics at the time changed the primary purpose of the program many times. First it was supposed to be a manned space bomber; then a high speed test vehicle; and finally, a reconnaissance platform. It was designed to be launched with a succession of launch vehicles, including Titan I, Titan II, and the Titan IIIC. Here is a description of the original purpose of the X-20A:
The klaxon sounds in the hardened silo deep beneath the earth. A space-suited astronauts run from the ready room, grabs the bar over the hatch, and hoists his legs into the cockpit. The ground crew attach his suit hoses, check that he is strapped into the ejection seat. The pilot closes the hatch above him. The blast doors open, the rocket is raised to the surface of the earth. Minutes later the Titan roars from the silo, launching the Dyna-Soar space bomber on an intercontinental nuclear strike mission.
Just goes to show that everything old is new again!