Boeing Continues DARPA Spaceplane Development

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency gave Boeing the go-ahead to continue development and maturation of its XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane, issuing a $6.5-million contract modification, the Pentagon announced. Boeing is one of three industry teams developing reusable space launch platforms to reduce the time and cost of deploying payloads into orbit. The contract award approves Boeing to “continue the development of the XS-1 demonstration concept” by selecting technologies for the craft, performing limited demonstrations, and writing a plan to mature the concept, according to the Pentagon’s July 27 list of major contracts. Boeing’s XS-1 concept upper stage space plane is launched by a boost stage and is capable of launching a 5,000-pound satellite, according to a company release last year. “The booster would then return to Earth, where it could be quickly prepared for the next flight by applying operation and maintenance principles similar to modern aircraft,” explained company program manager Will Hampton. Boeing is partnering with Blue Origin on the project, competing with Northrop Grumman and Virgin Galactic, and Masten Space Systems partnered with XCOR Aerospace, DARPA stated. The agency plans to competitively award a production contract and flight test demonstration under the program’s phase two.