Pentagon Preps for Orbital War With New Spaceplane

 

The XS-1 could replace satellites lost in battle—fast and cheap.

Aerospace giant Boeing just snagged a $6.6 million contract to design a cheap, reusable spaceplane for the U.S. military. The idea: to equip America’s space forces with an airplane-like vehicle that can fly to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere and quickly boost small satellites into orbit, and then land, refuel, load up another satellite, and take off again within 24 hours.

The so-called XS-1 program—short for “eXperimental Spaceplane 1”—isn’t a space weapon. Instead, it’s a sort of defense against space weapons—specifically, the growing fleets of killer spacecraft and satellite-destroying rockets that China and Russia are deploying.

Continue reading

New US Military Space Plane Aims for 2017 Liftoff

The United States military is making progress toward developing a new unmanned 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. Continue reading