Fox News on August 13, 2015, reported on DARPA’s sensational new spacecraft XS-1. Excerpts below:
The XS-1 is airplane-like space vehicle that can fly to space and rapidly launch small satellites, space weapons, and more into orbit at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. This space plane can then return, land, get refueled, and take onboard another delivery, before it blasts off again.
The idea is that this craft would be a game-changer allowing the U.S. to travel to space and then return to Earth and fly again within 24 hours. In just a few short years, the XS-1 it may make it possible for one single aircraft to take ten return trips to space over the course of ten days.
The quest to achieve a small, reusable robotics-flown space plane is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) XS-1 program or Experimental Spaceplane 1. The hope is that it will blast off on its first mission in a few years.
The Agency has chosen three companies — Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Masten Space Systems — to move forward and continue in competition to become the XS-1 producer.’
Some speculate that the XS-1 will be used to launch secret spy satellites and space weapons to defend against a hostile country’s tech placed out in space.
The goal is for the space plane to also be far more affordable than current options. Each journey may cost less than five million a go.
XS-1 would make it easier and cheaper to quickly get US defense tech into space.
The XS-1 is not focused on spending time travelling through space and is instead about rapidly getting to low earth orbit without any help to deliver payloads. Rather than conventional approaches, it uses a hypersonic propulsion system, which means it can reach speeds of Mach 10.
Instead of the one-offs of current space travel, this spacecraft would not just be reusable but re-deployable at a high rate. For instance, it could make 10 return journeys in 10 days.
DARPA has given all three companies more money to continue developing their versions of an XS-1 robotic space plane.
For the Phase 1 work, Boeing teamed up with Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman with Virgin Galactic, and Masten with XCOR Aerospace.
The companies must now complete their XS-1 design and test their tech before August next year. The first XS-1 mission to space could be as early as 2018.
DARPA’s ALASA (Airborne Launch Assist Space Access) is also exploring how to launch small satellites rapidly. In ALASA, the satellites launch from an F-15 fighter jet. ALASA may undergo testing later this year.