DARPA partners with Boeing to build and fly an experimental vehicle for aircraft-like access to space.

DARPA has selected Boeing to complete advanced design work for the Agency’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, which aims to build and fly the first of a new class of hypersonic aircraft that would bolster national security by providing short-notice, low-cost access to space.

The program aims to achieve a capability well out of reach today – launching satellites into low Earth orbit in days, compared to the months or years of preparation currently needed to get a single satellite into orbit. Success will depend upon significant advances in both technical capabilities and ground operations, but could revolutionise the ability to recover from a catastrophic loss of military or commercial satellites, DARPA says.

“The XS-1 would be neither a traditional airplane nor a conventional launch vehicle but rather a combination of the two, with the goal of lowering launch costs by a factor of ten and replacing today’s frustratingly long wait time with launch on demand,” said Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager. “We’re very pleased with Boeing’s progress on the XS-1 through Phase 1 of the program and look forward to continuing our close collaboration in this newly funded progression to Phases 2 and 3 – fabrication and flight.”

Read more on the DARPA site and watch this video.