Boeing and DARPA to build spaceplane

Posted on 09 Jun 2017 and read 643 times
Boeing and DARPA to build spaceplaneBoeing and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are collaborating to design, build and test a technology demonstration vehicle for the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) programme.

This will be an autonomous, re-usable spaceplane capable of carrying a small expendable upper stage to launch small (1,361kg) satellites into low Earth orbit. Boeing and DARPA will jointly invest in the development.

Once the spaceplane — called Phantom Express — reaches the edge of space, it would deploy the second stage and return to Earth, landing on a runway to be prepared for its next flight by applying operation and maintenance principles similar to modern aircraft.

Darryl Davis, president of Boeing’s Phantom Works, said: “Phantom Express is designed to transform the satellite launch process as we know it today, creating a new on-demand space-launch capability that can be achieved more affordably and with less risk.”

The Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine, a version of the ‘legacy’ Space Shuttle main engine, would power the spaceplane. Designed to be re-usable, it operates using liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel.

Phantom Express would offer an advanced airframe design, as well as third-generation thermal protection to create a vehicle capable of “flying at high velocity while carrying a smaller and more-affordable expendable upper stage to achieve the mission objectives”.

In the test phase of the programme, Boeing and DARPA plan to conduct a series of 10 flights over 10 days.

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