Artist's concept of DARPA's Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1), a proposed unmanned, hypersonic vehicle that the agency hopes will lower satellite launch costs substantially. Officials are targeting Mach 10 for the suborbital vehicle.
USAF New Experimental Space Plane
The United States military is kick-starting a suborbital hypersonic vehicle program that also aims to launch payloads into orbit on the cheap.
The new program, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is called Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1. It follows in the footsteps of previous DARPA hypersonic projects, such as the HTV-2 aircraft that reached 20 times the speed of sound in an August 2011 test flight.
Officials want the reusable, unmanned XS-1 to take advantage of capabilities to be showcased under another DARPA initiative, the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which aims to launch small spacecraft (up to 100 pounds, or 45 kilograms) in the 2015-2016 time period for just $1 million per liftoff, including range costs.
EXPERIMENTAL SPACEPLANE (XS-1) PROPOSERS’ DAY:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office (TTO) is sponsoring a Proposers’ Day to provide information to potential proposers on the objectives of the XS-1 program, in advance of a planned Phase I Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). The Proposers’ Day will be held on Monday, October 7, 2013 at the DARPA Conference Center, 675 North Randolph Street Arlington, VA 22203-2114, from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Advance registration is required.
PROGRAM OBJECTIVE AND DESCRIPTION:
The objective of the XS-1 program is to design, build, and demonstrate a reusable Mach 10 aircraft capable of carrying and deploying an upper stage that inserts 3,000– 5,000 lb. payloads into low earth orbit (LEO) at a target cost of less than $5M per launch (at a flight rate of more than 10 flights/year). Technologies derived from the XS-1 program will enable routine space launch capabilities with aircraft-like cost, operability and reliability. The long-term intent is for XS-1 technologies to be transitioned to support not only next-generation launch for Government and commercial customers, but also global reach hypersonic and space access aircraft. Key technical challenges that will be addressed by the XS-1 program include:
• A reusable first stage vehicle designed for aircraft-like operations
• Robust airframe composition leveraging state-of-the-art materials, manufacturing processes, and analysis capabilities
• Durable, low-maintenance thermal protection systems that provide protection from temperatures and heating rates ranging from orbital vacuum to atmospheric re-entry and hypersonic flight
• Reusable, long-life, high thrust-to-weight, and affordable propulsion systems
• Streamlined “clean pad” operations dramatically reducing infrastructure and manpower requirements while enabling flight from a wide range of locations
Additional goals for the XS-1 demonstration program are to:
• Fly ten times in ten days
• Fly to Mach 10 at least once
• Launch a representative payload to orbit at least once
It is anticipated that the program will be divided into three phases:
• Phase I: Initial Design and Risk Reduction
• Phase II: Final Design, Fabrication, and Integration Assembly and Test
• Phase III: Flight Test Campaign
The goals of this meeting are: 1) to familiarize participants with DARPA’s interest in XS-1, and 2) to promote discussion of synergistic capabilities among potential program participants. It is our desire to facilitate the formation of strong teams and business relationships in order to develop comprehensive, quality responses to any potential DARPA solicitation.
Darpa Targets Lower Launch Costs With XS-1 Spaceplane
Never deterred by past failures, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (Darpa) once again wants to develop a reusable-spaceplane launch vehicle to reduce dramatically the cost and time required to orbit satellites.
This time, the agency's goal with its new Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program is to demonstrate a reusable capability that can transition to industry for low-cost military and commercial satellite launches as well as hypersonic technology testing.
The agency usually hands off successful programs to one of the U.S. armed services, but “Darpa's XS-1 transition partner is you—industry,” program manager Jess Sponable told attendees at a proposers' day briefing last month. In addition to enabling lower-cost, more responsive launches of U.S. government satellites, Darpa sees the reusable first-stage technology to be demonstrated under the XS-1 program as key to recapturing a commercial launch market lost to foreign competitors.
The program goal is to fly an X-plane reusable first-stage to demonstrate technology for an operational system capable of launching 3,000-5,000-lb. payloads to low Earth orbit for less than $5 million per flight at a launch rate of 10 or more flights a year. This compares with around $55 million to launch that class of payload on the Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur IV expendable booster, which operates at a flight rate of around one a year, according Darpa.
Invoking the original designation of the first aircraft to break the sound barrier, the Bell X-1, the XS-1 would be a companion to Darpa's Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (Alasa) program to demonstrate an aircraft-based launch system capable of placing 100-lb. payloads into low Earth orbit for less than $1 million per flight, including range costs. Preliminary design contracts for Alasa were awarded to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in 2012.
Previous attempts to develop a reusable launch vehicle have failed, the agency acknowledges, arguing that the late-1980s X-30 and late-1990s X-33 VentureStar never flew because the designs were technically unachievable with the technology available at the time. Darpa's last attempt at a reusable launcher was the Rascal (Responsive Access, Small Cargo, Affordable Launch) program of the early 2000s, aimed at placing 300-lb. payloads into orbit for less than $750,000.
Under development by Space Launch Corp. and Scaled Composites, Rascal was a specially designed Lockheed SR-71-size supersonic aircraft powered by four existing turbojet engines modified to high-Mach, high-altitude operation. After takeoff, the manned Rascal was intended to zoom-climb to 180,000 ft. and release an expendable upper stage, then return to a runway landing. Flight demonstrations were planned for 2006, but the program was canceled in 2005.
Technology advances that should make the reusable-spaceplane launch-vehicle concept feasible this time, Darpa believes, include lower-weight, lower-cost composite airframe and tank structures; durable thermal protection; available propulsion that is reusable and affordable, and health management systems that enable aircraft-like operations. Since the previous reusable launch-vehicle programs were canceled, Boeing's X-37 reusable orbital spaceplane has flown three times, and Boeing says it plans to apply the experience gained to its XS-1 proposal.
Budget permitting, Darpa plans to award three or four $3-4 million XS-1 Phase 1 preliminary design contracts in the first quarter of 2014, followed a year later by a single design-to-cost contract worth up to $140 million to build and fly the X-plane demonstrator. If the program proceeds into Phases 2 and 3, first flight is scheduled for the third quarter of 2017, leading to an orbital flight demonstration a year later.
The program has some of the challenge characteristics of the Ansari X-Prize, won by Scaled Composites with the SpaceShipOne. The technical objectives are to fly the XS-1 10 times in 10 days, fly to Mach 10-plus at least once and launch a demonstration payload into orbit. The 10 flights in 10 days are intended to demonstrate reusability and expand the flight envelope. There is no velocity requirement for the flights, but the vehicle must take off and land each time.
Flying to Mach 10 or beyond will demonstrate the unmanned XS-1 can reach a staging speed that minimizes the size of the expendable upper stage, for which a target cost of $1-2 million has been set. There are no dynamic-pressure or load-factor requirements, but designing for Mach 10-plus will require the demonstrator to have the aero-thermal capability for space access and hypersonic testing. Similarly, there is no payload mass requirement for the launch to orbit, the objective being to demonstrate the potential for orbital flight in an operational version of the vehicle, Darpa says.
There are several possible configurations, propulsion systems and launch-and-recovery methods that could be proposed for the XS-1, but Darpa's reference X-plane is an F-15-sized, vertical-takeoff/horizontal-landing, winged spaceplane powered by two SpaceX Merlin 1D rocket motors.
Gross lift-off weight for the reference vehicle is almost 224,000 lb., compared with 190,000 lb. for a Minotaur IV carrying a 4,000-lb. payload. The expendable upper stage would weigh 15,000 lb. including payload. The design could be scaled up using Aerojet AJ26 (Russian NK33) engines, air launch or two stages, says Darpa.
The stated objective of the XS-1 program is to “break the cycle of escalating space system costs,” says the agency, pointing out that each GPS III spacecraft will cost $500 million for the satellite and $300 million for the launch, compared with $43 million and $55 million, respectively, for the first GPS in 1978.
The U.S. averages only 3-5 5,000-lb.-payload-class launches a year, Darpa says, well below the annual rate on which the XS-1's cost target of $5 million per flight is based. The agency believes a lower launch cost will grow the market, both to orbit smaller “disaggregated” satellites for the U.S. Air Force and by recapturing commercial business. But the ability of lower launch costs to stimulate demand remains to be proved.
Quelle: Aviation Week
New US Military Space Plane Aims for 2017 Liftoff
The United States military is making progress toward developing a newunmanned space plane, which it aims to begin flight-testing in 2017.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to award the first design contracts for the vehicle project — known as Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1— in May or thereabouts, officials said. Current schedules call for the vessel to get off the ground for the first time in late 2017 and make an orbital test flight the following year.
DARPA has high expectations for the XS-1 program, which it hopes can eventually launch 3,000- to 5,000-lb (1,361 to 2,268 kilograms) payloads to orbit for less than $5 million per flight — and to do it at least 10 times per year.
"The vision here is to break the cycle of escalating space system costs, enable routine space access and hypersonic vehicles," XS-1 program manager Jess Sponable said Feb. 5 during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group. (Hypersonic flight is generally defined as anything greater than five times the speed of sound.)
"We're interested not just in launch, but also in seeing if we can find a way to enable more affordable, more routine, simpler hypersonic vessels," he added.
Changing the cost equation
DARPA first announced the ambitious XS-1 program last September. It's viewed as complementary to another agency effort known as ALASA (Airborne Launch Assist Space Access), which seeks to launch 100-lb (45 kg) satellites to orbit for less than $1 million apiece using traditional airplanes outfitted with expendable upper stages.
DARPA officials laid out their broad vision of the robotic XS-1 vehicle in a press release issued in September:
"XS-1 envisions that a reusable first stage would fly to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude," they wrote. "At that point, one or more expendable upper stages would separate and deploy a satellite into low-Earth orbit. The reusable hypersonic aircraft would then return to earth, land and be prepared for the next flight."
But DARPA is leaving the specifics of the XS-1 system — which aims to provide routine, aircraft-like access to space — up its potential builders, Sponable said.
"We don't care if it's vertical take-off, horizontal land, vertical-vertical, which brings in a lot of the entrepreneurs," he said in the FISO presentation. "We don't care if they air-launch it, air-tow it, whatever. So we've left all those wide open."
The XS-1 program has enough money for one design contractor, which it plans to choose in 2015 after assessing the work done by the first-round awardees. However, Sponable holds out some hope that more than one vehicle could make it to the flight-test stage.
"I would love for somebody from NASA or the Air Force out there to step forward and say, 'Hey, there's obviously more than one of these things that we want to go flight-test; let's fly more than one," he said.
The vehicle developed in the XS-1 program could eventually transition to the commercial market, greatly reducing launch costs for many customers around the world, Sponable said. And the space plane could have many other applications as well.
For example, the XS-1 could serve as a reconnaissance satellite or a hypersonic-vehicle testbed, he said. The space plane could also help advance research into superfast point-to-point transportation around the world.
The XS-1 program represents a return to the bold aerospace projects of decades past, when engineers from various government agencies came together to push the spaceflight envelope, Sponable said.
"We stopped when we flew the X-15 back in the '60s; we didn’t do anything else," he said. "Well, that was a mistake — we should have continued pushing the technology, because we would not be in the dire situation with respect to space access that we're in today had we done so."
Experimental Space Plane Designs Wanted by US Military
The U.S. military is moving ahead in its plan to develop a robotic space plane capable of launching payloads to orbit cheaply and efficiently.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded initial design contracts for its Experimental Spaceplane project, known as XS-1, to three different companies: Boeing, Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman, DARPA officials announced today (July 15).
"We chose performers who could prudently integrate existing and up-and-coming technologies and operations, while making XS-1 as reliable, easy-to-use and cost-effective as possible," DARPA program manager Jess Sponable said in a statement. "We're eager to see how their initial designs envision making spaceflight commonplace — with all the potential military, civilian and commercial benefits that capability would provide."
A rocket upper stage carrying a satellite payload launches into orbit in this artist's concept of the U.S. military's XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane, a project overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
All three awardees are partnering with other aerospace firms during this stage of the XS-1 space plane project, which is known as Phase 1. Boeing is teaming up with Blue Origin, Masten is working with XCOR Aerospace and Northrop Grumman is working with the company Virgin Galactic, which is building its own private suborbital spaceliner for space tourist trips, DARPA officials said.
Boeing already provides one robotic space plane to the U.S. military; the company builds a vehicle called the X-37B for the Air Force. One X-37B spacecraft has been circling Earth on a secret military mission since December 2012.
Boeing representatives said that the company's preliminary XS-1 contract is worth $4 million.
DARPA hopes the XS-1 program, which was first announced last September, can help make spaceflight much more affordable and routine. Officials want the unmanned vehicle to launch 3,000- to 5,000-lb. (1,361 to 2,268 kilograms) payloads to orbit for less than $5 million per flight, and to be able to blast off at least 10 times in a 10-day span.
The vehicle will likely employ a reusable first stage and one or more expendable upper stages, DARPA officials said. The first stage will fly to suborbital space at hypersonic speeds, and then return to Earth to be used again; the upper stage will separate and deploy the payload into low-Earth orbit.
During Phase 1, each of the awardees will develop a demonstration vehicle and come up with a plan to build and flight-test XS-1 spacecraft systems, DARPA officials said. The agency is expected to hold a Phase 2 competition next year, to assess the Phase 1 work and see who makes it to the flight-test stage.
DARPA only has enough money for one contractor in the end, but officials are holding out some hope that more than one vehicle could perform flight tests.
"I would love for somebody from NASA or the Air Force out there to step forward and say, 'Hey, there's obviously more than one of these things that we want to go flight-test; let's fly more than one," Sponable said in February during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group.
Current plans call for flight tests to begin in 2017 and the first orbital mission to take place in 2018, Sponable said during the FISO talk.
Masten Space Systems selected by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for XS-1 Program
Mojave, CA (July 23, 2014) — Masten Space Systems, Inc. (Masten) announced today that the company has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of Phase 1 of the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program to develop a reusable launch vehicle. Over the last decade, Masten has built three highly operable, vertical takeoff/vertical landing, reusable rockets which are flown by small teams of five to seven people. Masten’s experience with vertical takeoff/vertical landing rockets has shown that the company’s flight vehicles can offer greater flexibility than reusable launch vehicles that require runways to land. Masten has logged well over 300 flights to date with its Xoie, Xombie and Xaero reusable rockets.
The goals of the XS-1 program include designing and building a rocket capable of flying 10 times in 10 days, lifting payloads greater than 3,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, and dramatically lowering the cost of launch. Masten’s team intends to utilize the first year of the XS-1 program to demonstrate critical technologies and refine the preliminary design of its “Xephyr” launch vehicle.
Phase 1 of the XS-1 program is scheduled to last 13 months, with vehicle construction and flight demonstration envisioned for subsequent phases. In Phase 2, DARPA plans to select one of its XS-1 partners to build its launch vehicle for eventual transition to future commercial or military operations.
“XS-1 comes at the right time for the industry and the right time for Masten,” said Masten CEO Sean Mahoney. “The tide is turning and space access is opening up. We’re thrilled to lead a team to tackle the hard problems DARPA has put in front of us.”
Company founder and CTO David Masten said, “It’s time. Our team is ready. We’ve been working towards this for years. XS-1 is a great program to join with our vertical landing technology.”
“The vision here is to break the cycle of escalating space system costs and enable routine space access and hypersonic vehicles,” said Dennis Poulos, Masten’s XS-1 program manager. “The XS-1 program represents a return to the bold aerospace projects of decades past, when engineers from various government agencies came together to push the spaceflight envelope.”
The mission of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is to make the pivotal early technology investments that create or prevent decisive surprise for U.S. national security. By investing in new technology-driven ideas for next-generation capabilities, DARPA creates options for a better, more secure future. Since its establishment in 1958 as part of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), DARPA has demonstrated time and again how thinking well beyond the borders of what is deemed possible can yield extraordinary results.
ABOUT MASTEN SPACE SYSTEMS:
Masten Space Systems designs, builds and operates reusable vertical takeoff and landing rockets to help lower the barriers to space access. With over 300 flights successfully completed since May 2009, Masten continues to push the boundaries of reusable launch vehicle development and autonomous precision landing. Built on the foundation of reusability and small operations teams, the XPRIZE-winning company offers rockets-as-a-service for Entry Descent and Landing development, sub-orbital, and orbital flights.
Northrop Grumman Developing XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane Design for DARPA
REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Aug. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic is developing a preliminary design and flight demonstration plan for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 program.
XS-1has a reusable booster that when coupled with an expendable upper stage provides affordable, available and responsive space lift for 3,000-pound class spacecraft into low Earth orbit. Reusable boosters with aircraft-like operations provide a breakthrough in space lift costs for this payload class, enabling new generations of lower cost, innovative and more resilient spacecraft.
The company is defining its concept for XS-1 under a 13-month, phase one contract valued at $3.9 million. In addition to low-cost launch, the XS-1 would serve as a test-bed for a new generation of hypersonic aircraft.
A key program goal is to fly 10 times in 10 days using a minimal ground crew and infrastructure. Reusable aircraft-like operations would help reduce military and commercial light spacecraft launch costs by a factor of 10 from current launch costs in this payload class.
To complement its aircraft, spacecraft and autonomous systems capabilities, Northrop Grumman has teamed with Scaled Composites of Mojave, which will lead fabrication and assembly, and Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded spaceline, which will head commercial spaceplane operations and transition.
"Our team is uniquely qualified to meet DARPA's XS-1operational system goals, having built and transitioned many developmental systems to operational use, including our current work on the world's only commercial spaceline, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo," said Doug Young, vice president, missile defense and advanced missions, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
"We plan to bundle proven technologies into our concept that we developed during related projects for DARPA, NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, giving the government maximum return on those investments," Young added.
The design would be built around operability and affordability, emphasizing aircraft-like operations including:
Clean pad launch using a transporter erector launcher, minimal infrastructure and ground crew;
Highly autonomous flight operations that leverage Northrop Grumman's unmanned aircraft systems experience; and
Aircraft-like horizontal landing and recovery on standard runways.
Quelle: Northrop Grumman Corporation