Boeing To Build The XS-1 Hypersonic Space Plane For The US Military

hypersonic space plane

The ever so surreptitious X-37b spaceplane has never failed to catch the attention of the media, with speculations ranging from terming it a spy plane to a space bomber. Whatever it might be, the project XS-1 is one step closer to completion and is expected to debut in 2020, with the US military claiming that the project will

‘bolster national security by providing short-notice, low-cost access to space.’

Image: Boeing

The vehicle is called Phantom Express and is a collaboration of Boeing and DARPA, a U.S. Department of Defense agency. Phantom Express has the size of a business jet and is designed to blast off like a rocket beyond the atmosphere. It will then leave the second-stage rocket and satellite in the orbit and turn around to land like an airplane on a runway.

Image: Boeing

After Elon Musk’s SpaceX, this DARPA-Boeing venture is the second attempt to great reusable launch vehicles that will considerably cut down the cost of sending payloads into space.

‘The reusable first stage … would be prepared for the next flight, potentially within hours,’ DARPA spokesman Jared Adams wrote in an email.

The XS-1 program is scheduled to fly ten flights within ten days and is planned to fly from Cape Canaveral, where other Boeing space programs are also based.

Image: Boeing

Phantom Express will have the capacity to launch itself into space and will be powered by a liquid-fueled Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine, and the entire space-plane weighs up to 3,000 pounds (1,361 kg).

‘The program 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 on orbit,’ DARPA says.

It claims the plane would ‘revolutionize the Nation’s ability to recover from a catastrophic loss of military or commercial satellites, upon which the Nation today is critically dependent.’

‘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 ten and replacing today’s frustratingly long wait time with launch on demand,’ said Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager.

Image: Boeing

‘We’re very pleased with Boeing’s progress on the XS-1 through Phase 1 of the program and look forward to continuing our close collaboration in this newly funded progression to Phases 2 and 3—fabrication and flight.’

The project is aimed to help a commercial space deployment service in the future that would operate on minimal costs as little as $5 million or less. This would include the cost of an expendable upper stage and a recurring flight rate of at least ten flights per year, and would be a huge improvement on the current cost and flight frequency.

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