Max Hunter, who worked for Lockheed Martin for many years, had a dream of building a rocket that could be used many times and be readied for flight in a short time. Officials with Lockheed Martin failed to believe in his concept, but Hunter still believed in his idea. He had seen the drawings created by Philip Buno of a similar rocket. When Hunter retired, he convinced science fiction author Jerry Pournelle and retired Army Lieutenant General Daniel O Graham to believe in his dream. Together, they made a presentation to Vice President Dan Quayle, who also brought into the plan.
Delta Clipper Experimental
Funding through the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization soon followed. On Aug. 13, 1993, Hunter and his compadres dream became a reality when a successor to the DX-9, the Delta Clipper Experimental, was launched at the White Sand Missile Base in New Mexico.
On initial takeoff, the rocket rose 151 feet above the ground, hovered slightly, moved sideways for 350 feet and returned to earth, vertically landing as planned. While the whole flight lasted 53 seconds, the rocket performed as expected.
NASA soon took over the program, and built the Delta Clipper Experimental Advanced, nicknamed the DC-XA. They achieved a 26-hour turnaround with successful flights of that rocket, a record still standing in 2021.
Max Hunter went on to serve as a consultant on several space rocket projects. He also served as the chairman of the Ansari X Prize starting in 1996. Paul Allen, who designed Tier One, won this $10 million award. DC-X, Tier One and other rockets have all led to the development of SpaceX and will lead to even more exciting developments in the future.