Boeing's Phantom Express hypersomic spaceliner
The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced it will continue to work with Boeing on the next phase of their Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) programme.
The goal of the programme is to build an autonomous aircraft capable of launching into orbit 10 times over the course of 10 days by 2020.
DARPA programme manager Jess Sponable said: “The XS-1 would be neither a traditional airplane nor a conventional launch vehicle but rather a combination of the two.”
The team behind the Phantom Express say it is one schedule for a 2020 launch
The XS-1 would be neither a traditional airplane nor a conventional launch vehicle but rather a combination of the two
The spaceplane, known as the Phantom Express, is roughly the size and weight of a modern business jet but will take off vertically like a rocket and fly at hypersonic speeds.
The current design of the Phantom Express does not include external boosters like a modern spaceship.
It will be powered by an Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine using liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants.
Eileen Drake, president and CEO of Aerojet Rocketdyne, said: “This engine has a demonstrated track record of solid performance and proven reusability.”
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The Phantom Express could provide defence and commercial opportunities
Boeing said the Phantom Express will be capable of deploying a small satellite weighing up to 3,000lbs into low-Earth orbit.
On the journey back to Earth, the space plane will land horizontally on a runway, where it can be prepared for the next flight “potentially within hours”.
The project is scheduled to begin conducting flight tests in 2020.
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Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said: “Phantom Express is designed to disrupt and transform the satellite launch process as we know it today, creating a new, on-demand space-launch capability that can be achieved more affordably and with less risk.”
DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office Brad Tousley said: “We’re delighted to see this truly futuristic capability coming closer to reality.
“Demonstration of aircraft-like, on-demand, and routine access to space is important for meeting critical Defense Department needs and could help open the door to a range of next-generation commercial opportunities.”