The XS-1 will launch vertically using an Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The AR-22 engine is a version of main engines that were used to power NASA's space shuttles, Boeing representatives said in a statement.
The Phantom Express will be built by Boeing's Phantom Works division, which also built the two robotic X-37B space planes that are currently in use by the US Air Force for classified missions. The reusable X-37B space planes have flown four missions to date, each longer than the last, with the latest mission (called OTV-4) landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 7 after 718 days in orbit.
"Phantom Express is designed to disrupt and transform the satellite launch process as we know it today, creating a new, on-demand space-launch capability that can be achieved more affordably and with less risk," Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said in a separate statement.
DARPA officials said the rapid-turnaround goal of the XS-1 space plane and the technologies that make it possible won't benefit just the US military. DARPA will publicly release some of its results from the Phase 2 and 3 trials, and share payload specifications for interested commercial companies, agency officials said.
"We're delighted to see this truly futuristic capability coming closer to reality," Brad Tousley, director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, which oversees the XS-1 project, said in the DARPA statement. "Demonstration of aircraft-like, on-demand and routine access to space is important for meeting critical Defense Department needs and could help open the door to a range of next-generation commercial opportunities."
Original article on Space.com.