DARPA created its Experimental XS-1 Spaceplane program for more routine, responsive and affordable space operations. Watch the video…
Images © DARPA
The XS-1 Spaceplane program aims to develop a fully-reusable unmanned and next-generation hypersonic vehicles.
XS-1 would provide aircraft-like access to space and deploy small satellites, faster and more affordable, to orbit using expendable upper stages.
Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager, said:
“We chose performers who could prudently integrate existing and up-and-coming technologies and operations, while making XS-1 as reliable, easy-to-use and cost-effective as possible. We’re eager to see how their initial designs envision making spaceflight commonplace—with all the potential military, civilian and commercial benefits that capability would provide.”
XS-1 envisions that a reusable first stage would fly to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude. At that point, one or more expendable upper stages would separate and deploy a satellite into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The reusable first stage would then return to earth, land and be prepared for the next flight. Modular components, durable thermal protection systems and automatic launch, flight and recovery systems should significantly reduce logistical needs, enabling rapid turnaround between flights.