Experimental Spaceplane XS-1, the new hypersonic unmanned aircraft being developed by the US Military’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), might have its first liftoff in 2017, with an orbital test flight tentatively scheduled for the following year.
According to Space.com, DARPA is planning on awarding design contracts in May.
“Key XS-1 technical goals include flying 10 times in 10 days, achieving speeds of Mach 10+ at least once and launching a representative payload to orbit,” reads a statement on DARPA’s website. “The program also seeks to reduce the cost of access to space for small (3,000- to 5,000-pound) payloads by at least a factor of 10, to less than $5 million per flight.”
“The program aims to develop a fully reusable unmanned vehicle that would provide aircraft-like access to space,” the statement continues. “The vehicle is envisioned to operate from a “clean pad” with a small ground crew and no need for expensive specialized infrastructure. This setup would enable routine daily operations and flights from a wide range of locations. XS-1 seeks to deploy small satellites faster and more affordably, while demonstrating technology for next-generation space and hypersonic flight for both government and commercial users.”