Northrop Grumman Corporation with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic have revealed artwork of their preliminary design for DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 (Experimental Spaceplane 1) Programme as the first fruits of an awarded DARPA financed phase 1 study contract awarded to them this worth US$3.9 million. The XS-1 programme hopes to produce a reusable spaceplane stage which with an expendable second stage will allow payloads of 1,000-2,500kg to be launched into low Earth orbit (LEO) for less that US$5 million. The Mach 10 XS-1 rocketplane will serve not only as a reusable first stage for such a launch vehicle, but also as a test-bed for a new generation of hypersonic aircraft. A key program goal is to fly 10 times in 10 days using a minimal ground crew and infrastructure.
The Boeing team which includes a similar vertical launch/horizontal landing reusable launch vehicle has start-up Blue Origin as its team member. The team had earlier revealed its XS-1 concept in July after receiving a US$4 million study contract from the programme.
A third team led by Masten Space Systems which received a US$3 million study contract has yet to fully reveal the mechanics of its concept which may include a fully vertical launch vertical landing design in association with a horizontal landing space plane designed by its team mate XCOR.