DARPA, Boeing Collaborate to Build Hypersonic Spaceplane Phantom Express XS-1 [VIDEO]

By Prei Dy, | May 26, 2017

DARPA and Boeing team up to develop a hypersonic spaceplane. (YouTube)

DARPA and Boeing team up to develop a hypersonic spaceplane. (YouTube)

The US' Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Boeing has teamed up to complete the advanced design work for the agency's new experimental hypersonic spaceplane, called the Phantom Express XS-1.

"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," Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager, said in a press release.

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DARPA and Boeing are planning to develop and fly the first of an entirely new class of plane that aims to improve national security through providing short-notice, low-cost access to space. According to Sputnik, the XS-1 is designed as a satellite delivery system that will send small orbiters into space at high speed and returning back to Earth on the same day. DARPA wants the XS-1 to be fast and durable, completing 10 deliveries back and forth to space as many days as possible.

"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 wait time with launch on demand," Sponable said.

The XS-1 initiative was first announced by DARPA in November 2013 as its latest efforts in hypersonic spaceplane technology. Envisioned as a fully reusable unmanned vehicle, the spaceplane could carry and deliver between 900 and 3,000 pounds of load at an altitude of 99 to 1,200 miles back and forth to Earth in a single day for a price of $5 million per launch. DARPA said that amount is about 10 times cheaper than what the US military spends on similar space missions.

Boeing intends to power the Phantom Express hypersonic spaceplane with the Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 as the main propulsion source. The engine is fueled by liquid oxygen and hydrogen. A secondary booster would also help push the payload into orbit.

Meanwhile, the project is still far from being finished and the earliest on-ground engine test is slated in 2019. But until the concepts are realized, here's a concept video of the proposed Phantom Express XS-1.

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