Author Topic: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program  (Read 207488 times)

Offline jongoff

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DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« on: 09/12/2013 04:54 PM »
Hey guys, Jeff Foust just reported about an interesting new program that DARPA TTO will be launching soon called the Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) program. We should get more info from the DARPA industry day next month, but here are some details from twitter (starting with this tweet: https://twitter.com/jeff_foust/status/378177568337166336):

* XS-1 goal: fly 10x in 10 days, at speeds up to Mach 10. With upper stage, place 1000-4000 lbs in orbit, $5M/launch.
* I'm hearing from some friends that Jess Sponable (who ran DC-X) will be running this one. He got back to DARPA TTO a few months back.
* While their concept art showed some notional winged vehicles, the presenter (Pam Melroy, the Deputy Director for DARPA TTO) made it clear that XS-1 was not limited to winged vehicles--just needs to be a reusable first stage that can hit Mach 10 and come back.
* The Broad Area Announcement (a type of solicitation DARPA uses often) will be out next month, with an Industry Day early in the month to provide more details and feedback.


Offline edkyle99

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #1 on: 09/12/2013 05:01 PM »
My first question is this.  Why is it "XS-1"?  Does that imply an "XS-2", and so on?

Then I'm wondering who DARPA is aiming this toward.  Lockheed Martin flew that "Revolver" test stage a few years ago, for example, then won Reusable Booster System funding, but RBS was cancelled in 2012.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 09/12/2013 05:06 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline jongoff

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #2 on: 09/12/2013 05:08 PM »
My first question is this.  Why is it "XS-1"?  Does that imply an "XS-2", and so on?

Then I'm wondering who DARPA is aiming this toward.  Lockheed Martin flew that "Revolver" test stage a few years ago, for example.

Well, this is a full-scale first stage going at Mach 10. Revolver was a good test vehicle but I think never went supersonic (or if it did, didn't go anywhere near Mach 10).

Jess Sponable, the PM for this new program was a program manager for DC-X back in the 90s, and he's been a die-hard supporter of RLV technologies ever since then. The USAF has bought into the value of a reusable first stage, but the previous program focused on that (Reusable Boostback System) got canceled a year ago. Sometimes good ideas need a few attempts to actually gain enough traction to happen.

No idea on if they have an XS-2 follow-on or if this was just a naming parody borrowing from Space Ship One. There should hopefully more details in a few weeks. If Altius was still involved in the rocket business (or if I had free travel money) I might attend.

~Jon

Offline jongoff

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #3 on: 09/12/2013 05:14 PM »
A few of my own thoughts, then I'll try to shut up till we get more actual details:

1- Mach 10 staging is actually pretty fast for most Return-to-Launch Site RLVs. Boostback seemed to optimize out more in the Mach 6-8 range I thought. I wonder why they picked Mach 10. I know Jess has been talking with people in industry, so he probably has some analysis backing that number, but it'd be interesting to hear their rationale.

2- I'm glad they're keeping this open to non-winged vehicles as well. It's not clear which approach really is the best, so not pre-ordaining the configuration will get them better entries.

3- Targeting a reusable 1st stage that can put an expendable stage plus 1-4klbs into orbit means that a reusable upper stage could likely enable a 300-500kg payload...which was right in the sweet spot that Jeff Greason and I were discussing at Space Access a few years back.

4- It'll be fun to see how this turns out. DARPA announcing a program is a far different thing from the program actually making it to flight, which is also a far different thing from a successful flight demo leading to infusion into a government or commercial operational capability. But I'm really glad that Jess has talked DARPA into putting money into something like this again. It often takes many iterations on a good idea before something succeeds, so the more funded efforts like this, probably the better.

~Jon

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #4 on: 09/12/2013 08:17 PM »
Very happy about this... We need lots of these sorts of things, some serious competition on the launch side in order to get costs low enough to enable the payload side to innovate.
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Offline yg1968

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #5 on: 09/12/2013 08:19 PM »
During her AIAA Presentaion, Pam Melroy discussed DARPA's new Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1). She explained during the Q&A that it doesn't have to be a plane. It must be a reusable first stage. It must be able to get to Mach 10.

Here are the slides where she dicusssed the XS-1.

Here is her presentation (at 19m40s and 1h15m):
http://www.livestream.com/aiaa/video?clipId=pla_7392bc56-dba0-4250-a88f-0188c2fb049c&utm_source=lslibrary&utm_medium=ui-thumb

« Last Edit: 09/12/2013 08:28 PM by yg1968 »

Offline jongoff

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #6 on: 09/12/2013 08:59 PM »
During her AIAA Presentaion, Pam Melroy discussed DARPA's new Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1). She explained during the Q&A that it doesn't have to be a plane. It must be a reusable first stage. It must be able to get to Mach 10.

Here are the slides where she dicusssed the XS-1.

Here is her presentation (at 19m40s and 1h15m):
http://www.livestream.com/aiaa/video?clipId=pla_7392bc56-dba0-4250-a88f-0188c2fb049c&utm_source=lslibrary&utm_medium=ui-thumb

I'm worried about that second slide. Low-cost access to space and hypersonics research are not necessarily strongly related. If anything kills this program, my guess is it'll be the insistence on a Mach 10 staging point. Though they may still get a good proposal that isn't a hypersonic airplane pretending to be a first stage that could save the day, but I've never been very convinced that hypersonics are the way to go to get cheap access to space.

~Jon
« Last Edit: 09/12/2013 09:00 PM by jongoff »

Offline yg1968

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #7 on: 09/12/2013 09:41 PM »
During her AIAA Presentaion, Pam Melroy discussed DARPA's new Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1). She explained during the Q&A that it doesn't have to be a plane. It must be a reusable first stage. It must be able to get to Mach 10.

Here are the slides where she dicusssed the XS-1.

Here is her presentation (at 19m40s and 1h15m):
http://www.livestream.com/aiaa/video?clipId=pla_7392bc56-dba0-4250-a88f-0188c2fb049c&utm_source=lslibrary&utm_medium=ui-thumb

I'm worried about that second slide. Low-cost access to space and hypersonics research are not necessarily strongly related. If anything kills this program, my guess is it'll be the insistence on a Mach 10 staging point. Though they may still get a good proposal that isn't a hypersonic airplane pretending to be a first stage that could save the day, but I've never been very convinced that hypersonics are the way to go to get cheap access to space.

~Jon

Somebody asked that question. The person said that there is already concepts that use a Mach 3 plane. She said that they wanted Mach 10 (not Mach 3). Implied in her answer is that DARPA would not get involved in a Mach 3 system because it is not advanced enough for DARPA to get involved in it.

Offline baldusi

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #8 on: 09/12/2013 09:47 PM »
May be they mentioned that it has to reach Mach 10 by itself (i.e. no US nor payload)? Which I think is sort of normal for expendable version.

Offline yg1968

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #9 on: 09/12/2013 11:58 PM »
May be they mentioned that it has to reach Mach 10 by itself (i.e. no US nor payload)? Which I think is sort of normal for expendable version.

Yes. Mach 10 for the first stage or the plane.

Offline yg1968

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #10 on: 09/13/2013 12:02 AM »
My first question is this.  Why is it "XS-1"?  Does that imply an "XS-2", and so on?

Then I'm wondering who DARPA is aiming this toward.  Lockheed Martin flew that "Revolver" test stage a few years ago, for example, then won Reusable Booster System funding, but RBS was cancelled in 2012.

 - Ed Kyle

On the same panel, someone from the Air Force said that they were not interested in a RBS type system because it was too far off into the future.

Offline jongoff

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #11 on: 09/13/2013 01:09 AM »
My first question is this.  Why is it "XS-1"?  Does that imply an "XS-2", and so on?

Then I'm wondering who DARPA is aiming this toward.  Lockheed Martin flew that "Revolver" test stage a few years ago, for example, then won Reusable Booster System funding, but RBS was cancelled in 2012.

 - Ed Kyle

On the same panel, someone from the Air Force said that they were not interested in a RBS type system because it was too far off into the future.

Part of the challenge is that DARPA wants to look at things that are even further in the future (like hypersonic first stages apparently), while the AF thinks that even a boostback RLV is too far out.  In some ways NASA is the same schizophrenic way. There had been this plan at NASA to provide funding for near-term technology demonstrations, but Congress decided that handing big juicy rocket contracts to their cronies mattered more.

I wish there was some way of getting an agency whose sole purpose was funding projects that were too far off for procurement-focused agencies, but too practical for DARPA and NIACs...

~Jon

Offline QuantumG

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #12 on: 09/13/2013 01:13 AM »
If only there was some system for rationally approaching technology development. Alas, without all these government agencies and their panels of experts, there would be no progress.

 :P
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Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #13 on: 09/13/2013 01:20 AM »
Wonder if the mach-10 requirement is so you could put a scramjet upper stage on it. Resulting in something like an in-atmosphere intercontinental range hypersonic missile.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #14 on: 09/13/2013 04:06 AM »
If only there was some system for rationally approaching technology development. Alas, without all these government agencies and their panels of experts, there would be no progress.

 :P
...and yet, a lot of tech progress has occurred. Or has occurred in effectively-governmental monopolistic institutions like Bell Labs.

The primary ingredient is competency.
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Offline QuantumG

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #15 on: 09/13/2013 04:58 AM »
If only there was some system for rationally approaching technology development. Alas, without all these government agencies and their panels of experts, there would be no progress.

 :P
...and yet, a lot of tech progress has occurred. Or has occurred in effectively-governmental monopolistic institutions like Bell Labs.

The primary ingredient is competency.

How was Bell Labs anything like these government agencies and their panels of experts?

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline jongoff

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #16 on: 09/13/2013 05:01 AM »
Anyhow, let's save the libertarian versus progressive arguments on the value of government funded R&D for some other thread--you both have interesting points, but this isn't the thread for it. Sorry to have gotten it off topic in the first place.

To bring things back, it'll be interesting to see what Jess does with this. I have a lot of respect for him with what he's done at DC-X, and what he's been trying to drum up support for since then.

~Jon
« Last Edit: 09/13/2013 05:02 AM by jongoff »

Offline Danderman

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #17 on: 09/13/2013 04:25 PM »
The history of such programs at DARPA has not been good, at least in the field of aerospace.

RASCAL comes to mind.

I do wish them luck on this one, though.

Offline jongoff

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #18 on: 09/13/2013 04:28 PM »
The history of such programs at DARPA has not been good, at least in the field of aerospace.

RASCAL comes to mind.

I do wish them luck on this one, though.

Yeah, the odds are somewhat stacked against him, but having an experienced PM like Jess Sponable probably gives it a better shot than it otherwise would have.

~Jon

Offline darkbluenine

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Re: DARPA Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) Program
« Reply #19 on: 09/13/2013 05:09 PM »
May be they mentioned that it has to reach Mach 10 by itself (i.e. no US nor payload)? Which I think is sort of normal for expendable version.

Yes. Mach 10 for the first stage or the plane.

Just to be clear, the Mach 10 requirement may be met by either the reusable booster (before staging) or the expendable stage (after staging)?

Thanks for any clarification.

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