The US military's secretive development wing has decided conventional methods of launching satellites are simply too slow and expensive.
With this in mind they are looking to develop an "aircraft-like" space plane that can do Mach 10+, fly 10 times in 10 days and cost less than $5 million a flight.
Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager heading the project - called XS-1 - said: "We want to build off of proven technologies to create a reliable, cost-effective space delivery system with one-day turnaround.
"How it’s configured, how it gets up and how it gets back are pretty much all on the table—we’re looking for the most creative yet practical solutions possible."
DARPA envisions a reusable first stage flying to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude. At this height an expendable upper stage would then take the payload into Low Earth Orbit.
DARPA are seeking the new technology to launch satellites that can "provide crucial real-time information essential to providing strategic national security advantages to the United States".
With the demise of the Space Shuttle program, those requiring access to space are being forced to look for alternatives.
DARPA will host an XS-1 Proposers’ Day for 7 October, 2013.Suggest a correction