DARPA’s Hypersonic Space Plane by Journalist Maryanne Kane of

DARPA’s hypersonic space plane is no longer an innovation idea.  It is a reality. Boeing is building it.   It’s called the XS-1 and is also known as the Phantom Express. XS-1 launches satellites at a moments notice.  The launches are cheaper and faster than current technology delivers.

Phantom Express’ Specifics

Phantom Express is an experimental space plane/booster.  It’s performs vertical takeoff and horizontal landings.  DARPA designed it to deliver small satellites for the US military.  XS-1 must meet a number of specifications.  DARPA requires one day turnarounds including 10 satellite launches in 10 days by the space plane.  XS-1 carries a payload up to 4000 pounds.

DARPA’s Hypersonic Space Plane — Big Brother of Supersonic X-37B

Supersonic X-37B is a super secret US Air Force program now deployed on its fifth mission.  It’s a technology demonstrator with more than 200 days in orbit.  XS-1 is a next generation hypersonic space plane.  The vehicle is robotic, unmanned and reusable.  DARPA officials explain it’s neither a traditional airplane nor a conventional satellite launch system. It’s a hybrid of both.  The goal is to cut launch costs by a factor of ten.  That converts to $5 million per mission. Also DARPA wants to greatly cut launch wait times.

Orbital Path

Here’s how XS-1 works.  The aircraft/booster utilizes a reusable first stage space plane vehicle to fly at hypersonic speeds to suborbital heights without any booster rockets.  At its suborbital height, XS-1 deploys a disposable, secondary rocket.  The secondary rocket separates from the vehicle.  It launches its satellite payload into orbit.  DARPA equips the space plane with the capacity to do another satellite launch within hours of the first.

Remarkable Speed and Altitudes

The Phantom Express flies at hypersonic speeds to Mach 10. Altitudes are 12,250 kilometers and higher.

This is one of DARPA’s many fascinating experimental aircraft and space projects    Also

DARPA plans to test XS-1 engines and do test flights by 2020.  Boeing has the project well underway.



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