Military designs hypersonic plane for space missions

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US is starting a new program to build and launch hypersonic crafts into a low orbit around the Earth. They’re calling the program Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) and hope to use the XS-1 plane to deliver payloads into space with as little money as possible. If all goes as planned, the plane should fly 10 times in 10 days, while flying at 10 times the speed of sound (that’s a whole lot of 10’s)! “This is not a single-stage-to-orbit,” said former NASA astronaut Pamela Melroy, now deputy director of the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA. “This is a suborbital, hypersonic vehicle that will also allow us to do advanced hypersonic testing as well. And of course we are going to launch a payload into orbit.”

The XS-1 should be able to carry around 2,000 to 4,000 pounds and cost roughly $5 million per launch. “We want to build off of proven technologies to create a reliable, cost-effective space delivery system with one-day turnaround,” said Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager heading XS-1. “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.”

Featured image courtesy of DARPA.