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Summary

In June 1983 DARPA initiated the classified Copper Canyon program to investigate the potential military applications of air-breathing hypersonic and single stage to orbit vehicles and technologies with Vince Rausch as project director. Tony DuPont\u2019s initial design from 1983 originated from a NASA study into engine cycles and was a 50,000 lb \u201cF-15 sized\u201c aircraft. Funded with $6 million for 1983, with Battelle Laboratories doing the main work and initial contracts for airframe work to Boeing, Lockheed and General Dynamics, and propulsion work to Marquardt and GASL. In mid-1985 the TAV group at the USAF Aeronautical Systems Center became aware of the work being done under Copper Canyon. The TAV studies and contractor designs had concentrated on rocket-based single stage to orbit vehicles rather than the air-breathing vehicles envisioned by Copper Canyon. Soon both groups were discussing a multibillion dollar effort to produce a single stage to orbit aircraft in collaboration with NASA and other DOD agencies to reduce the cost of access to space. In October 1985 the USAF ASC launched the Advanced Aerospace Vehicle (AAV) program to develop advanced hypersonic military aircraft. In December 1985 the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) program was born, a civilian led national effort to develop a single stage to orbit vehicle. NASP JPO was established in January 1986, and president Reagan announced the NASP in his first state of the union address in February 1986. Copper Canyon constituted Phase I of NASP program.

Sources

http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,315.0/all.html