In the fall of 1988 Bob Truax sold his homemade launch vehicle, the Volksrocket X-3, also known as Project Private Enterprise, to the United States Navy. The purchase price was $750,000.
For some unfathomable reason that even he could not figure out, the government was now hotly interested in precisely the kind of sea-launched and recoverable rocket that Truax had proposed to much laughter back in the 1960s. In fact, the navy had come up with a new concept called SEALAR, standing for Sea Launch and Recovery, the object of which was to place a ten-thousandpound payload into low-earth orbit using a two-stage rocket that would be launched from the ocean, landed back in the water some four hundred miles downrange, and then reused.
It was a Truax dream come true, and when the navy let it be known that it needed a specimen rocket for testing purposes, Bob Truax proposed his X-3. In a very few months the navy went ahead and bought it lock, stock, and barrel. They got the rocket, the transporter, the ground support equipment, the computerized control panel, and all other supporting gadgetry and appurtenances. This was the very same rocket Truax had put together in his garage, using the surplus engine parts he'd rescued from the scrap heap -- the very same Atlas vernier engines that he'd bought for $25 apiece