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DARPA's Next-Generation Spaceplane



--- Quote ---DARPA Picks Design for Next-Generation Spaceplane

DARPA has selected The Boeing Company to complete advanced design work for the Agency’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, which aims to build and fly the first of an entirely new class of hypersonic aircraft that would bolster national security by providing short-notice, low-cost access to space. The program aims to achieve a capability well out of reach today—launches to low Earth orbit in days, as compared to the months or years of preparation currently needed to get a single satellite on orbit. Success will depend upon significant advances in both technical capabilities and ground operations, but would revolutionize the Nation’s ability to recover from a catastrophic loss of military or commercial satellites, upon which the Nation today is critically dependent.

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The XS-1 program envisions a fully reusable unmanned vehicle, roughly the size of a business jet, which would take off vertically like a rocket and fly to hypersonic speeds. The vehicle would be launched with no external boosters, powered solely by self-contained cryogenic propellants. Upon reaching a high suborbital altitude, the booster would release an expendable upper stage able to deploy a 3,000-pound satellite to polar orbit. The reusable first stage would then bank and return to Earth, landing horizontally like an aircraft, and be prepared for the next flight, potentially within hours.

In its pursuit of aircraft-like operability, reliability, and cost-efficiency, DARPA and Boeing are planning to conduct a flight test demonstration of XS-1 technology, flying 10 times in 10 days, with an additional final flight carrying the upper-stage payload delivery system. If successful, the program could help enable a commercial service in the future that could operate with recurring costs of as little as $5 million or less per launch, including the cost of an expendable upper stage, assuming a recurring flight rate of at least ten flights per year—a small fraction of the cost of launch systems the U.S. military currently uses for similarly sized payloads. (Note that goal is for actual cost, not commercial price, which would be determined in part by market forces.)

To achieve these goals, XS-1 designers plan to take advantage of technologies and support systems that have enhanced the reliability and fast turnaround of military aircraft. For example, easily accessible subsystem components configured as line replaceable units would be used wherever practical to enable quick maintenance and repairs.

The XS-1 Phase 2/3 design also intends to increase efficiencies by integrating numerous state-of-the-art technologies, including some previously developed by DARPA, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force. For example, the XS-1 technology demonstrator’s propulsion system is an Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine, a version of the legacy Space Shuttle main engine (SSME).

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XS-1 Phase 2 includes design, construction, and testing of the technology demonstration vehicle through 2019. It calls for initially firing the vehicle’s engine on the ground 10 times in 10 days to demonstrate propulsion readiness for flight tests.

Phase 3 objectives include 12 to 15 flight tests, currently scheduled for 2020. After multiple shakedown flights to reduce risk, the XS-1 would aim to fly 10 times over 10 consecutive days, at first without payloads and at speeds as fast as Mach 5. Subsequent flights are planned to fly as fast as Mach 10, and deliver a demonstration payload between 900 pounds and 3,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.

Another goal of the program is to encourage the broader commercial launch sector to adopt useful XS-1 approaches, processes, and technologies that facilitate launch on demand and rapid turnaround—important military and commercial needs for the 21st century. Toward that goal, DARPA intends to release selected data from its Phase 2/3 tests and will provide to all interested commercial entities the relevant specs for potential payloads.
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Pentagon Official Says U.S. Hypersonic Weapons Research Underfunded | - March 1, 2018

--- Quote ---Asked if the United States is spending enough on its infrastructure to help develop hypersonic weapons, Walker replied, “I would say no.”

The Donald Trump administration’s recently proposed fiscal 2019 budget request increased funding for hypersonics research, though it is spread across several services and agencies to include DARPA, NASA, and the Missile Defense Agency. But Walker said some areas are still underfunded, particularly the facilities needed to test hypersonic vehicles.

“The dollars that were allocated in this budget were great, but they were really focused on adding more flight tests and getting some of our offensive abilities further down the line into operational prototypes,” he said. “We do need an infusion of dollars in our infrastructure to do hypersonics.”

In recent years, military experts have pointed to Russia’s and China’s work on hypersonics to argue for more U.S. funding for the work. Walker said China, in particular, has invested in hypersonics research at an alarming rate.
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--- Quote from: Ayoshi on February 23, 2018, 10:44:19 AM ---Pentagon budget 2019: Russian, Chinese hypersonics emerge as clear concern | Janes - 22 February 2018

--- Quote ---Development of hypersonic weapons, and defences against those weapons, are given new life in the US Department of Defense’s fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) budget amid concerns that peers such as Russia and China are advancing hypersonics technologies.

These systems, such as hypersonic glide vehicles, are meant to be capable of significant range within a short period of time; a hypersonic weapon would reach speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10.
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DARPA to start hypersonic weapon flight tests | Janes - 05 March 2018

--- Quote ---In its fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) budget request, the US Department of Defense (DoD) is seeking increased funding to enable the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to begin flight testing hypersonic weapons in 2019.

However, as DARPA readies for flight tests, it could also use an increase in infrastructure funding, the agency director said, something it did not get in the FY 2019 request.
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DARPA pursues materials, architecture to cool hypersonic vehicles | Janes - 21 December 2018

--- Quote ---To address the challenge DARPA has initiated the Materials, Architectures, and Characterization for Hypersonics (MACH) programme. The programme seeks to develop and demonstrate new design and material solutions for sharp, shape-stable, high heat flux capable leading edge systems for hypersonic vehicles travelling more than five times the speed of sound.

DARPA is seeking expertise in thermal engineering and design, advanced computational materials development, architected materials design, fabrication and testing (including net shape fabrication of high temperature metals, ceramics, and their composites), hypersonic leading-edge design and performance, and advanced thermal protection systems. DARPA has specified that it does not want research “that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice”.

The MACH programme will comprise two technical areas. The first area aims to develop and mature a fully integrated passive thermal management system to cool leading edges based on scalable net-shape manufacturing and advanced thermal design. The second technical area will focus on next-generation hypersonic materials research, applying modern high-fidelity computation capabilities to develop new passive and active thermal management concepts, coatings, and materials for future cooled hypersonic leading edge applications.
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DARPA’s MACH programme will pursue materials and designs for cooling the hot leading edges of hypersonic vehicles travelling at speeds of Mach 5 and beyond. Source: DARPA


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