Darpa Introduces XS-1 Spaceplane To Minimize Costs

U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency or Darpa is aiming to launch a space vehicle which is reusable. This step is being taken to cut down on the costs and reduce the time which the satellites take to navigate the orbits. The organization has introduced its Experimental Spaceplane or XS-1 program which validates the ability to reuse. This concept can be used to introduce commercial and military devices which rotate on the earth’s orbit at lower costs. The primary aim is to fly the X-plane which can be used again. It is the target of the agency to display the superior technology of the operational system.


It has been estimated that the system capable of operating will be able to launch 3000-5000 lb. of payloads to the lower orbits of the earth. It has been targeted to launch more than 10 flights in a year at a cost which touches 45 million for each flight. As per Darpa’s study Orbital Sciences Corp’s Minatour IV was introduced with an estimate of $55 million to launch the flight. The Airborne Launch Assistant Space Access, which is popularly known as Alasa, launched a program to display the ability of the launch system to position payloads as heavy as 100 lb. in the lower orbit of the earth. It can take place at costs as low as $1 million estimated for a single flight.


Lockheed Martin, Northrop and Grumman, received the formal legally binding document to design for Alasa. The prior attempts to manufacture a space vehicle which can be used again have failed. It needs mention that the reusable launch vehicle programs, which were launched earlier, had been cancelled. Hence Boeing’s returnable orbital space plane vehicle has flown three times. Boeing aims at using its valuable experience in the XS-1 proposal. Darpa has plans of spending an estimated 3 to 4 million in the launch of XS-1. In the phase 1 of the program by April 2014 the initial design contracts should be over. By the following year, a $ 140 million design to cost contract should be finalized.


By the end of 2017, the first space vehicle should be launched if the program heads into the consecutive phases. A successful demo of the flight may be experienced in 2018. The program has its own share of trials. The primary objective of the program is to navigate the XS-1 ten times in ten days. The next objective is to hover to March 10-plus. The flights will exhibit the ability to reuse the vehicle and expand the flight envelope. The conception of reusable space launch vehicle should be possible with advancing technology. It should include lighter and cheaper air frames. It is a viable option to have less costly and less heavy tank structures. The thermal protection can be durable, and the propulsion too can be reusable.


Darpa believes that it is possible to launch this vehicle. The X-30 which was launched in the 1980’s and the X-33 which was introduced in the 1990 did not fly because of loopholes in its technology. Rascal (Responsive Access, Small Cargo, Affordable Launch) was one of the very last attempts which Darpa took to launch the space vehicle in the first half of 2000. In the year 2005, this particular program was negated. Darpa has given the reference of an F-15 sized X-plane. It is powered with Space X Merlin one dimensional rocket motors. There is a possibility of different arrangements, varied propulsion systems which could be applicable for XS-1.

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