We have come to know that the Pentagon is looking for a few good space planes that would be fast in speed and need to be cheap in price. There’s one more condition — the space planes need to be reusable. Keeping Pentagon’s demand in mind, lately DARPA has launched Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program.
The purpose of this XS-1 program is to give the U.S. military a flying machine that can soar to suborbital altitudes, at which point an expendable upper stage(s) would separate in order to deploy a small satellite into low-earth orbit. These space planes would not be ferrying or piloted by astronauts as they would be unmanned.
It is to be note that XS-1 space planes would be much faster than NASA’s retired shuttles. According to DARPA, the space planes would be capable of hypersonic flight. To fly at hypersonic speed means flying five times the speed of sound (343.2 metres or 1,126 ft per second) or faster than 3,840 miles (6180 km) per hour. DARPA has alos mentioned that other technical goals of the XS-1 program include flying 10 times in 10 days and launching a representative payload of roughly 3,000 to 5,000 pounds into orbit.
Keeping Pentagon’s demand in mind, DARPA has also focused the planes pricing. DARPA is trying to minimize the cost of the launching systems of those planes roughly one-tenth or something like that compared to existing launch systems.
Jess Sponable, the DARPA program manager has said in a statement about XS-1, “We want to build off of proven technologies to create a reliable, cost-effective space delivery system with one-day turnaround. 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.”
However, DARPA will receive some of the first design proposals of space planes on October 7. Now it’s time to see, whether DARPA gets something suitable or not that it is looking for.