DARPA looking for a shuttle replacement

With the shuttle retired and funding for the Orion killed back in 2009, the US is currently without a way to get people into space or a relatively cheap way to get payloads into orbit.

DARPA has apparently decided not to wait for NASA, and has called for commercial companies to propose candidates for their XS-1 space plane.

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

Having this capability will fill a hole in LEO access left by NASA policy and budget constraints.

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One Response

  1. Constellation was killed a while ago; Orion is the Crew Exploration Vehicle and is still operational.

    The hole in US space capability at the moment is manned spaceflight; We’re still sending unmanned missions to LEO and beyond. XS-1 is unmanned, and it’s likely this is a follow on / operational version of X-37B.

    The Shuttle had large wings to give it a wide crossrange capability. This was a DoD requirement, basically to give the Shuttle the ability to go to space and return to a landing field after a single orbit. X-35B and XS-1 both also have large wings, which imply they’re designed for the same mission.

    Which, I would guess, involves making a sortie over a target and returning quickly with exposed film.

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