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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

DARPA announces Phase 1 of its XS-1 spaceplane program

•, By Ben Coxworth
That's why DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) first initiated its Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program. The idea is that once built, the XS-1 could take off and land like a regular aircraft, but could also deliver satellite payloads into low-Earth orbit while airborne. Today, the agency announced its plans for Phase 1 of the program, which includes awarding contracts for designs of the autonomous spaceplane.

As outlined in a previous article, plans call for the unmanned XS-1 to be able to make 10 flights within 10 days, reaching a speed of Mach 10+ at least once, and launching payloads weighing between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds (1,361 to 2,268 kg) at under US$5 million a pop.

A second-stage rocket carrying each payload will fire once it's launched from the spaceplane at suborbital altitude, carrying the satellite to its final orbit. The XS-1 will proceed back to the ground, where it will land and immediately be prepared for its next launch.

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