Home News Boeing throws in the towel on secret spaceplane project for military

Boeing throws in the towel on secret spaceplane project for military


The Phantom Express is no longer.

Boeing decided to halt the development of the experimental spaceplane it had been constructing within the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) XS-1 program.

It’s uncertain exactly why Boeing is dropping from the program. The company issued a statement saying it’d be redirecting its investment.

Boeing’s XS-1 spaceplane is powered with one AR-22 engine. Credit: Boeing

&ldquoWe shall now redirect our investment by XSP to other Boeing programs that period the sea, air and space domain,” Boeing explained. “We’re pleased to have been a part of a DARPA-led business team which collaborated to advance technology. We will make it a priority to harvest the most important learnings and apply them as Boeing continues to find ways to provide future reusable access to space. ”

The company was selected in May 2017 from DARPA, beating out Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman for a award for $146 million award for design and construct an launch method, to launch both payloads.

All 3 companies obtained phase 1 funding, but only Boeing had been selected for phase 2 and 3 of the application. (Phase 2 would have insured the growth of the car and the phase 3 contract would have predicted for as many as 15 flights of the car.)

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The program was developed to raise the state ’s accessibility. DARPA in a lower cost, and envisioned a reusable spaceplane that would loft payloads that are hefty rapidly — less than $5 million a trip.

“In its pursuit of aircraft-like operability, reliability, and cost-efficiency, DARPA and Boeing intend to conduct a flight test demonstration of Experimental Spaceplane technologies, flying 10 days in 10 times, with an additional closing flight carrying on the upper-stage payload delivery method,” DARPA stated from the program’s mission description.

The major goal of the project is to reuse the spacecraft with a proposed start speed of 10 missions in only 10 days. Flights were scheduled to start in 2020 with Boeing dropping out, the app is currently defunct.

The XS-1 would quantify 98 ft (30 meters) in length, with a 62-foot-long (19-meter) wingspan. It would fly suborbital trajectories at speeds faster than Mach 10 (10 times the speed of sound), and also be capable of depositing little tanks — weighing between 3,000 and 5,000 lbs. (1,360 into 2,267 kilograms) — to orbit.

“The XS-1 would be a traditional plane nor a traditional launch car but instead a combination of the two, with the objective of lowering launch costs by a factor of ten and replacing today’s long wait period with launch demand,” Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager mentioned in a news announcement .

An artist’s feeling of X-37B from orbit. (Adrian Mann)

Boeing’s Phantom Works division — which constructed the U.S. Air Force’s two robotic X-37B space airplanes — was to design, construct and test the vehicle.

Dubbed the Phantom Express from Boeing, the launcher would takeoff vertically, propelled by one Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine, which has been a version of the shuttle’s engine. It would have an expendable upper stage which would separate from the plane before ultimately depositing the payload.

After top stage separation, the Phantom Express would glide back to Earth, landing on a runway exactly enjoy the shuttle did and like the X-37B does today.

Boeing’s X-37B spaceplane lands on a runway, exactly like the proposed Phantom Express would. Credit: Boeing

“Demonstration of aircraft-like, on-demand, and regular access to space is vitally important for meeting critical Defense Department demands and may help open the door to a selection of next-generation industrial opportunities,” Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO), which oversees XS-1, stated in an news release shortly after Boeing’s selection.

Having a burgeoning market opening up in low-Earth orbit, it s possible that the army ’s high-tech agency may pursue the program in another fashion, but for the time being , we bid adieu to the XS-1.

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