Boeing is designing an autonomous reusable launch vehicle, shown here in an artist’s concept, under a new contract for DARPA’s XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane program.

Boeing to design XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane

Boeing plans to design a reusable launch vehicle for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in support of the U.S. government’s efforts to reduce satellite launch costs. DARPA’s XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane is conceived as a reusable, unmanned booster with costs, operation, and reliability similar to modern aircraft. Under the $4 million preliminary design contract, Boeing plans to work on a reusable first stage launch vehicle capable of carrying and deploying an upper stage to launch small satellite payloads of 3000 to 5000 lb into low-Earth orbit. Boeing’s design would allow the autonomous booster to carry the second stage and payload to high altitude and deploy them into space. The booster would then return to Earth, where it could be prepared for the next flight by applying operation and maintenance principles similar to modern aircraft. DARPA plans to hold a Phase II competition next year for the follow-on production order to build the vehicle and conduct demonstration flights.

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