DARPA Announces Experimental Spaceplane Project

DARPA is launching the Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1, program to develop a fully reusable unmanned vehicle that provides routine aircraft-like access to space to launch small-sized satellites into low Earth orbit. The goal is to operate with a small ground crew at the launch sites with no need for expensive specialized infrastructure and with a one-day turnaround of the reusable vehicle, according to the agency’s Sept. 17 release. “XS-1 aims to help break the cycle of launches happening farther and farther apart and costing more and more,” said Jess Sponable, the DARPA program manager heading XS-1. “It would also help further our progress toward practical hypersonic aircraft technologies and increase opportunities to test new satellite technologies as well,” he said. DARPA plans to meet with industry in early October to discuss ideas and technical proposals for XS-1. The agency said XS-1 developmental activities will complement the agency-sponsored work under the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access program.