Down the road of time, the dominant nature of the American military will be based in part on the pace in which you are able to elevate into space and fly outside Earth’s atmosphere. That is the leading concept fueling the Pentagon’s advanced project aimed at constructing a spacecraft with the capability of launching small sized payloads into orbit at a decreased cost.
The Boeing Co.’s XS-1 (Experimental Spaceplane), nicknamed the “Phantom Express,” received its’ approval from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, otherwise known as Darpa. The XS-1 was created specifically in order to rapidly list satellites as heavy as 3000 pounds into orbit for price tag of $5 million or less, being launched from the ground, deploying a small upper stage module, and then successfully landing in a manner similar to a traditional airplane – the most significant factor to multiple usage and decreased operating expenses. Darpa has an additional individual program focused on launching 100-pound satellites for a cost of less than $1 million per launch, utilizing aircraft of conventional means.
“The XS-1 would be neither a traditional airplane nor a conventional launch vehicle but rather a combination of the two, with the goal of lowering launch costs by a factor of ten and replacing today’s frustratingly long wait time with launch on demand,” Jess Spoonable, a Darpa program manager, commented in a May 24 report. “When most people think about hypersonic aircraft, many believe they would have to be large, expensive, and exotic.”
The Phantom Express will draw power from an Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. AR-22 engine, which is a considerably improved version of the fashioned main engine trio that was utilized by the NASA Space Shuttle. Boeing will develop and construct the aircraft from now through 2019, which will include 10 rounds of engine ground firings to take place over the course of 10 days and followed by as many as 15 test flights in 2020. When asked to comment on the cost of the project, a spokeswoman for Boeing declined to provide a response.
Reaching beyond the American military’s ambitious desire for a spaceplane, and aircraft machine that has the potential to intensely attract commercial companies towards the concept, most of which are already considering the launching of small satellite constellations. These corporations are not in need of weight capacity or an expanded expense that is normally associated with payload launches expended by the joint venture of the Boeing-Lockheed Martin Corp., United Launch Alliance
The XS-1 is also predicted to propel additional engineering work and superior airframe designs that would have the capability of delivering a hypersonic flight experience which is ideally as much as 10 times above Mach 1, which is approximately 767 miles per hour, the speed of sound at sea level. In the past, these creations have been met with resistance because of the immense friction and heat that is produced at higher Mach speeds.
Besides a swift elevation into space, a spaceplane that is equipped with hypersonic speed presents the opportunity to behold a new ability on behalf of the Pentagon – a deplorable aircraft that can reach any destination on the planet in less than three hours. “When most people think about hypersonic aircraft, many believe they would have to be large, expensive, and exotic,” Lockheed Martin says. “It’s time we change that perception.”
One method that the defense contractor is attempting to utilize and incorporate into the next generation of the SR-71 Blackbird, the speed demon of the Cold War era, having the ability to soar at Mach 3. It was also responsible for delivering critical reconnaissance up until the late 1990s for the Air Force when it was put to rest and retired. Still, to this day, the SR-71 maintains the reigning title numerous records in terms of speed and altitude.
SR-72, Lockheed Skunk Works new project, is a proposal that encompasses a Mach 6 flying altitude with the technology of an unmanned aircraft, cruising twice as fast as the SR-71s 2300 mile-per-hour rating. According to Lockheed Martin’s promotional materials, that means, “an adversary would have no time to react or hide.” A spokeswoman for Skunk Works declined to provide a comment on the nature of the hypersonic project.
By the year 2030, the SR – 72 could potentially be operational, and for the price tag of less than $1 billion, according to the corporation, which has been boasting about the aircraft machinery for many years.
Previous experimentation with hypersonic flight by Boeing, featuring their X-51 WaveRider, a small-sized scramjet craft, was reduced from a B-52 bomber, which last test mission flight was over the Pacific in 2013. The X-51 was able to reach heights above Mach 5, at about 4000 mph. NASA experimented with the pilot controlled X-15 in the 1960s, and the attempt to create a hypersonic flight program that would provide information on future space missions. The X-15 reached an all-time record of 4520 mph at the altitude of Mach 6.7, marking heights of more than 102,000 feet.