DARPA’s brand new hypersonic space-plane is currently being built by Boeing and when ready, it will be capable of launching satellites into orbit in a matter of seconds. The XS-1 space-plane was developed by DARPA as an experimental aircraft aimed to become a cheaper and faster alternative to launching satellites into Earth’s orbit. Presumably, both civilian and military, but that’s another story altogether.
However, the XS-1 project has been slowly developed for a number of years, but today DARPA broke the news that it partnered with Boeing to build the next-gen wave-of-the-future space-plane. And that means the new-and-improved XS-1 is just around the corner basically, being based on a concept created by Boeing itself, augmented with DARPA’s advanced design work and know how. Here’s a short video presenting the experimental space-plane:
Long story short, DARPA and Boeing will hit the world with a reusable unmanned hypersonic jet and their goal is to achieve 10 test flights over 10 consecutive days by the year 2020, thus proving that their project is feasible when it comes to launching low orbit satellites on a very short notice, if so required. The XS-1 will be a hybrid of sorts, a combo between a traditional airplane and a conventional launch vehicle. But, the trick is, using this interesting concept, the launching costs will be cut dramatically, by a factor of 10, which is huge news for tech/multi-media/internet companies. Also, the waiting time will be reduced significantly, via launch on demand in a matter of hours (days tops).
The XS-1 will achieve these goals by flying to suborbital altitudes sans boosters prior to launching a secondary (disposable) rocket that will deliver the payload (satellite) into orbit. According to the plans, the space-plane will be capable of taking a 2nd satellite up within a few-hours from delivering the 1st.