DE­SIGN FOR NEXT-GEN­ER­A­TION SPACE PLANE

SP's Aviation - - NEWS DIGEST -

The De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected The Boe­ing Com­pany to com­plete ad­vanced de­sign work for the Agency’s Ex­per­i­men­tal Space plane (XS-1) pro­gramme which aims to build and fly the first of an en­tirely new class of hy­per­sonic air­craft that would bol­ster na­tional se­cu­rity by pro­vid­ing short-no­tice, low-cost ac­cess to space. The pro­gramme aims to achieve a ca­pa­bil­ity well out of reach to­day—launches to low Earth or­bit in days, as com­pared to the months or years of preparation cur­rently needed to get a sin­gle satel­lite into or­bit. “The XS-1 would be nei­ther a tra­di­tional air­plane nor a con­ven­tional launch ve­hi­cle, but rather a com­bi­na­tion of the two, with the goal of low­er­ing launch costs by a fac­tor

of 10 and re­plac­ing to­day’s frus­trat­ingly long wait­ing time with launch on de­mand,” said Jess Spon­able, DARPA Pro­gram Man­ager. The XS-1 pro­gramme en­vi­sions a fully re­us­able UAV, roughly the size of a busi­ness jet, which would take-off ver­ti­cally like a rocket and fly to hy­per­sonic speeds. The ve­hi­cle would be launched with no ex­ter­nal boost­ers, pow­ered solely by self-con­tained cryo­genic pro­pel­lants. Upon reach­ing a high sub­or­bital al­ti­tude, the booster would re­lease an ex­pend­able up­per stage able to de­ploy a 3,000-pound satel­lite into po­lar or­bit. The re­us­able first stage would then bank and re­turn to the Earth, land­ing hor­i­zon­tally like an air­craft and be pre­pared for the next flight, po­ten­tially within hours.

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