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NASA couldn't afford the X-planes because of the high operating costs of the current spaceplane. Spaceplane induced budget problems precede the VSE, another bit of reality that spaceplane fanboys avoid.<br /><br />
One reason the X-spaceplanes ran into budget and technical problems is they were overly ambitious. Instead of a simple design that would test some of the concepts they went for swiss army knife designs that introduced a host of new concepts all at once. That is just asking for trouble.<br /><br />
In the case of the X-38 it was a stupid concept from day one. Believe it or not NASA does have a budget that it has to live within and a specialized vehicle that can only do one mission simply doesn't fit within the budget.<br /><br />