by Staff Writers
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Feb 17, 2014
The US Defense Department is attempting to develop a new unmanned spacecraft that could enter low Earth orbit faster and with more frequency than ever before.
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.
Current space launch vehicles are very expensive, have no surge capability and must be contracted years in advance. For example, the US Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) and Minotaur IV launch vehicles have dramatically increased in cost since the inception of the programs.
In an era of declining budgets and proliferating foreign threats to US air and space assets the need for responsive, affordable access to space is increasingly critical.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
Source: Voice of Russia
Military Space News at SpaceWar.com
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|