U.S. seeks a ‘hypersonic spaceplane’

WASHINGTON — The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has commissioned three companies to design a next-generation space plane whose description sounds straight out of a science fiction movie.

The contract is for the first phase of DARPA’s ‘Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1)’ program – an effort to find reusable, affordable space launch systems for the government.

It’s no secret that the government has been on the lookout for technology to make satellite launches faster, cheaper and more efficient. So how will this ‘hypersonic spaceplane,’ as it’s known, accomplish that?

Here’s how it works:

A satellite is traditionally launched into space via a giant rocket, which is an expensive undertaking that requires scheduling years ahead for limited slots, DARPA said.

The new craft is envisioned as an airplane-like vehicle. It will ferry an expendable rocket and the satellite into suborbital altitude. Once it deploys the rocket, the plane will break off and fly back to earth, just like any other commercial flight. Then it will be ready to go for the next launch.

As part of the contract, DARPA wants each company’s spaceplane to demonstrate 10 flights in 10 days, fly at least once at 10 times the speed of sound, and do it all for less than $5 million per flight.

The companies selected to design this futuristic plane are partnerships between space giants and start-ups. They include Boeing with Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman with Virgin Galactic. The third contractor is a joint venture between California start-ups Masten Space Systems and XCOR Aerospace.

“We chose performers who could prudently integrate existing and up-and-coming technologies and operations,” Jess Sponable, the agency’s program manager, said in a statement.

Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67tbhFzh1OM

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Mukilteo Police Chief Cheol Kang is known for his people skills

The city’s top cop’s calm demeanor and holistic approach earns him the nickname “Yoda.”

Mill Creek’s Donna Michelson ready to retire at year’s end

The city’s longest-serving council member says she has every intention of staying involved.

Smokey Point Behavioral Hospital accepting adolescent patients

The facility is the first mental heallth unit in the county to offer in-patient services for children.

Most Read