An experimental spaceplane with aircraft like operations in orbit
The current generation of satellite launch vehicles is expensive to operate, often costing hundreds of millions of dollars per flight. Moreover, U.S. launch vehicles fly only a few times each year and normally require scheduling years in advance, making it extremely difficult to deploy satellites without lengthy pre-planning. Quick, affordable and routine access to space is increasingly critical for U.S. Defense Department operations.
Imagine a fully reusable unmanned vehicle that would provide rapid, aircraft-like access to space. It would operate from a “clean pad” with a small ground crew and no need for expensive specialized infrastructure. It would enable routine daily operations and flights from a wide range of locations. And it would deploy small satellites faster and more affordably, while demonstrating technology for next-generation space and hypersonic flight for both government and commercial users.
Introducing DARPA‘s new Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program.
“We want to build off of proven technologies to create a reliable, cost-effective space delivery system with one-day turnaround,” said Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager heading XS-1. “How it’s configured, how it gets up and how it gets back are pretty much all on the table—we’re looking for the most creative yet practical solutions possible.”