Tech

September 18, 2013

Experimental space plane shooting for ‘aircraft-like’ operations in orbit

darpa-spaceplane
 

Commercial, civilian and military satellites provide crucial real-time information essential to providing strategic national security advantages to the United States.

The current generation of satellite launch vehicles, however, is expensive to operate, often costing hundreds of millions of dollars per flight.

Moreover, U.S. launch vehicles fly only a few times each year and normally require scheduling years in advance, making it extremely difficult to deploy satellites without lengthy pre-planning. Quick, affordable and routine access to space is increasingly critical for U.S. Defense Department operations.

To help address these challenges, DARPA has established the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program. The program aims to develop a fully reusable unmanned vehicle that would provide aircraft-like access to space. The vehicle is envisioned to operate from a “clean pad” with a small ground crew and no need for expensive specialized infrastructure. This setup would enable routine daily operations and flights from a wide range of locations. XS-1 seeks to deploy small satellites faster and more affordably, while demonstrating technology for next-generation space and hypersonic flight for both government and commercial users.

“We want to build off of proven technologies to create a reliable, cost-effective space delivery system with one-day turnaround,” said Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager heading XS-1. “How it’s configured, how it gets up and how it gets back are pretty much all on the table—we’re looking for the most creative yet practical solutions possible.”

DARPA seeks ideas and technical proposals for how to best develop and implement the XS-1 program.

The agency has scheduled an XS-1 Proposers’ Day for Oct. 7, 2013. The agency also plans to hold 1-on-1 discussions with potential proposers on the following day, Oct. 8, 2013. Advance registration is required; more information is available at http://www.sa-meetings.com/XS1ProposersDay. Registration closes Oct. 1,2013, at noon, EDT. For more information, please email DARPA-SN-14-01@darpa.mil.

The DARPA Special Notice describing the specific capabilities the program seeks is available at http://go.usa.gov/DNkF. A Broad Agency Announcement for XS-1 is forthcoming and will be posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

XS-1 envisions that a reusable first stage would fly to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude.  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. Modular components, durable thermal protection systems and automatic launch, flight, and recovery systems should significantly reduce logistical needs, enabling rapid turnaround between flights.

Key XS-1 technical goals include flying 10 times in 10 days, achieving speeds of Mach 10+ at least once and launching a representative payload to orbit. The program also seeks to reduce the cost of access to space for small (3,000- to 5,000-pound) payloads by at least a factor of 10, to less than $5 million per flight.

XS-1 would complement a current DARPA program already researching satellite launch systems that aim to be faster, more convenient and more affordable: Airborne Launch Assist Space Access. ALASA seeks to propel 100-pound satellites into orbit for less than $1 million per launch using low-cost, expendable upper stages launched from conventional aircraft.

“XS-1 aims to help break the cycle of launches happening farther and farther apart and costing more and more,” Sponable said. “It would also help further our progress toward practical hypersonic aircraft technologies and increase opportunities to test new satellite technologies as well.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
darpa-notice

DARPA Tactical Technology Office invites innovative risk-takers to attend 2014 Office-Wide Proposers Day

DARPAs Tactical Technology Office invests in innovative platforms, weapons, integrated systems and critical systems components that often incorporate emerging advanced technologies, all designed to preserve and extend decisive ...
 
 

AFRL provides environmentally-preferred alternatives for removing radome coatings

Radomes, tail cones, and other fiberglass or composite components on E-3, KC-135, and B-52 aircraft are coated with polyurethane rain erosion resistant coatings to protect them from the effects of rain erosion in flight. Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC) production workers must remove the coatings during depot overhaul to allow for inspection and repair....
 
 
darpa-uav-network

Remote troops closer to having high-speed wireless networks mounted on UAVs

Missions in remote, forward operating locations often suffer from a lack of connectivity to tactical operation centers and access to valuable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data. The assets needed for long-range...
 

 
Photograph courtesy of Research Center for Marine Geosciences/DLR

NASA signs agreement with German, Canadian partners to test alternative fuels

NASA photograph A heavily instrumented NASA HU-25 Falcon measures chemical components from the larger DC-8′s exhaust generated by a 50/50 mix of conventional jet fuel and a plant-derived biofuel, demonstrating the type of...
 
 
darpa-phoenix2

Phoenix makes strides in orbital robotics, satellite architecture research

The process of designing, developing, building and deploying satellites is long and expensive. Satellites today cannot follow the terrestrial paradigm of “assemble, repair, upgrade, reuse,” and must be designed to operate w...
 
 

AFRL researchers uncover structural, function relationships in bioinspired nanomaterials

In his 1954 work, The Nature of Science, Edwin Powell Hubble said, “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.” During his tenure with the Air Force Research Laboratory, National Research Council associate Dr. Nick Bedford, embarked on such an adventure that applied both biological and physical...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>