Aerospace Plane Technology:

Research and Development Efforts in Europe

NSIAD-91-194: Published: Jul 25, 1991. Publicly Released: Jul 25, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed investments in European aerospace vehicle research and technological development efforts.

GAO found that: (1) France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are developing the required technologies to secure independent manned access to space, reduce the cost of launching payloads into orbit, and ensure a competitive role in high-speed commercial transport aircraft markets; (2) the United States was ahead of European countries in developing such critical technologies as air breathing engines and materials and advanced high-speed computer programs; (3) only the United States has tested major large-scale components of an air-breathing aerospace plane; (4) U.S. government and industry invested almost $1.8 billion in the National Aero-Space Plane Program (NASPP) between fiscal years (FY) 1986 and 1990 and the U.S. government anticipates spending about $2.7 million on NASPP between FY 1991 and 1997; (5) France, Germany, and the United Kingdom invested a total of about $125 million between 1982 and 1990 for various air-breathing aerospace plane studies and anticipate spending about $217 million between 1990 and 1992 on such programs; (6) although the United States was a leader in terms of facility size, productivity, and testing techniques, the Europeans' progress rate in renovating old facilities and building new facilities was significantly greater than that of the United States; (7) European governments and industries were developing vehicle concepts on a national basis first before seeking international partners; and (8) the convergence of national interests, expertise, approaches, and funding among the European countries, Japan, and the Soviet Union could prove to be competitive with NASPP.

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