DARPA Plans XS-1 Industry Day for April 29

XS-1 concept vehicle (Credit: Masten Space Systems)
XS-1 concept vehicle (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

WASHINGTON (DARPA PR) — The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office (TTO) is sponsoring a Proposers Day to provide information to potential proposers on the objectives of the XS-1 program in advance of a planned Phase II and III Program Solicitation (PS). The Proposers Day will be held on Friday, April 29, 2016 at the DARPA Conference Center, 675 North Randolph Street, Arlington, VA 22203-2114 from 1:00PM to 4:30PM Eastern Time. Advance registration is required. A live webcast will be available for those who cannot attend in person.

The overall objective of the XS-1 Phase II and III program is to design, build, and flight test a reusable booster system to support an expendable upper stage capable of inserting 3,000 pounds to orbit, with a design goal of less than $5M cost per launch for an operational system. The program will demonstrate on-demand and rapid operations by flying the booster ten times in ten days and launching a demonstration payload greater than 900 pounds to orbit. Based on the results of Phase I, DARPA anticipates awarding Phase II and III of the XS-1 program using an other transaction for prototype agreement. Refer to the attachment, “DARPA-SN-16-29 4-7-2016,” for complete details of this Special Notice including registration instructions.

Details

DARPA SBIR Awards for XS-1 & Rocket Technologies

XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)
XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)

I was conducting some research into Defense Department Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to see what space and rocket projects it has been funding.  I found a group of SBIR Phase I contracts awarded by DARPA in 2015, most of them related to the XS-1 launcher program. I don’t think I’ve written about them previously.

(more…)

DARPA Requests $50.5 Million for XS-1 for FY 2017

XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)
XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is requesting $175.24 million for fiscal year (FY) 2017 for the development of space systems and technology, an increase of $48.5 million over current fiscal year spending.

The ambitious XS-1 program, which aims to develop fully-reusable launch vehicle system, once again tops DARPA’s space spending with proposed spending of $50.5 million. The program received $30 million for FY 2016.

(more…)

GAO: DOD’s Responsive Launch Effort Lacks Consolidated Plan

Boeing's ALASA launch system features a F-15E aircraft and an innovative booster. (Credit: Boeing)
Boeing’s ALASA launch system features a F-15E aircraft and an innovative booster. (Credit: Boeing)

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) study has found the Defense Department lacks a consolidated plan for developing a responsive launch capability that could rapidly place satellites into orbit on short notice.

(more…)

ISPCS Day One Review & a Mojave Engine Test

Credit: Robin Snelson
Credit: Robin Snelson

Greetings from Mojave.  I had hoped to be greeting you from Las Cruces from the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS — pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Is-pic-us). But, my plans to leave one desert town to travel across vast stretches of desert to a larger desert town didn’t work out this year. (I don’t know why; it sounded like so much fun.)

(more…)

DARPA Awards More Funding for XS-1 Program

XS-1 entry (Credit: Northrop Grumman)
XS-1 entry (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

DARPA has awarded an additional $20 million in funding for the XS-1 program:

Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Masten Space Systems have won additional funding from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to continue developing their concepts for the United States military’s XS-1 robotic space plane under the program’s second phase (Phase 1B).

The current phase funds the “development of the XS-1 demonstration concept, substantiating identified core component technologies, mitigating risk, developing a Technology Maturation Plan (TMP), and performing several demonstration tasks,” DARPA said. Completion of Phase 1B is expected by August 2016. All three companies had received money in the summer of 2014 for initial “Phase 1″ design work. The first XS-1 orbital mission could take place as early as 2018, DARPA said.

The objective of the Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 program is to demonstrate relevant technologies and then fabricate and fly a reusable, unmanned aircraft to the edge of space. The XS-1 would then deploy a small expendable upper stage able to launch a 3,000-pound spacecraft to Earth orbit at a cost of no more than $5M, or about one-tenth the cost of today’s launch systems.

Read the full story.

Stu Witt’s Annual New Year’s Message

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

New Year’s Greeting 2015
January 12, 2015

Happy New Year! Once again, it is my pleasure to provide an update on our 2014 goal achievement and lay out our vision for 2015. This past year has been extremely busy at Mojave Air & Space Port. While we witnessed many successes we also came to grips with losing three members of our flight test family. In retrospect, regardless of how we view any success in 2014 the reality of the events of 24 and 31 October will live with us forever. As we move into 2015, we must constantly realize that the work we perform is essential for the continued mobility of the traveling world but the cost associated with our achievement is often high and deeply personal.

In February 2014, the AVBoT held their annual outlook conference in Mojave. This was a first and noteworthy event for us. The event was highlighted by a charged and emotional speech by Captain Mark Kelly USN/ NASA Astronaut. We hosted nearly 1200 guests to our event center and took full advantage to show off our economic growth and achievement.

(more…)

The Year in Commercial Space 2014 (Part II)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)
Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Second of 2 Stories

It was a busy year for a number of commercial space companies. While most of them made considerable progress, the news wasn’t all good.

A Dream Deferred

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) had a pretty rough year, losing out on two major contracts and laying off more than 100 employees.

On a Friday in May, just as everyone was preparing for the long Memorial Day weekend, Virgin Galactic announced it was dumping the hybrid rubber motor SNC developed for SpaceShipTwo in favor of a hybrid nylon one produced by Scaled Composites.

(more…)

Northrop Grumman Selected for XS-1 Program

XS-1 entry (Credit: Northrop Grumman)
XS-1 entry (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Aug. 19, 2014 (Northrop Grumman PR) — Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic is developing a preliminary design and flight demonstration plan for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 program.

(more…)

Masten Releases Artist’s Conception of XS-1 Vehicle

XS-1 concept vehicle (Credit: Masten Space Systems)
XS-1 concept vehicle (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, CA, July 23, 2014 (Masten PR) — Masten Space Systems, Inc. (Masten) announced today that the company has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of Phase 1 of the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program to develop a reusable launch vehicle.

Over the last decade, Masten has built three highly operable, vertical takeoff/vertical landing, reusable rockets which are flown by small teams of five to seven people. Masten’s experience with vertical takeoff/vertical landing rockets has shown that the company’s flight vehicles can offer greater flexibility than reusable launch vehicles that require runways to land. Masten has logged well over 300 flights to date with its Xoie, Xombie and Xaero reusable rockets.

(more…)

New XS-1 Concept Video

Video Caption: DARPA created its Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program to help create a new paradigm for more routine, responsive and affordable space operations. The program aims to develop a fully-reusable unmanned vehicle that would provide aircraft-like access to space and deploy small satellites to orbit using expendable upper stages. XS-1 seeks to deploy small satellites faster and more affordably, and develop technology for next-generation hypersonic vehicles.

Boeing Receives Contract for XS-1 Experimental Space Plane

XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)
XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., July 15, 2014 (Boeing PR) – Boeing [NYSE: BA] plans to  design a reusable launch vehicle for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in support of the U.S. government’s efforts to reduce satellite launch costs.  DARPA’s XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane is conceived as a reusable, unmanned booster with costs, operation and reliability similar to modern aircraft.

(more…)

Boeing, Northrop and Masten Get Funding for DARPA’s XS-1 Space Plane

XS-1_drawing
WASHINGTON (DARPA PR) — In an era of declining budgets and adversaries’ evolving capabilities, quick, affordable and routine access to space is increasingly critical for both national and economic security. Current satellite launch systems, however, require scheduling years in advance for a handful of available slots. Launches often cost hundreds of millions of dollars each, in large part to the massive amounts of dedicated infrastructure and personnel required.

DARPA created its Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program to help overcome these challenges and create a new paradigm for more routine, responsive and affordable space operations. In an important step toward that goal, DARPA has awarded prime contracts for Phase 1 of XS-1 to three companies:

  • The Boeing Company (working with Blue Origin, LLC)
  • Masten Space Systems (working with XCOR Aerospace)
  • Northrop Grumman Corporation (working with Virgin Galactic)

(more…)

Masten Wins $3 Million Contract for DARPA XS-1 Reusable Vehicle

Artist's conception of a nominal X-S1 vehicle. (Credit: DARPA)
Artist’s conception of a nominal X-S1 vehicle. (Credit: DARPA)

Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif. has won a $3 million contract for work on DARPA’s XS-1 program, according to an award announcement at www.FedBizOpps.gov.

The objective of the XS-1 program “is to demonstrate a reusable first stage launch vehicle capable of carrying and deploying an upper stage that inserts 3,000 to 5,000 lb. payloads into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), designed for less than $5M per launch for an operational system.”

The system has to be able to perform with aircraft-like operations. And demonstrate the ability to fly 10 times in 10 days. It needs to reach Mach 10 at least once. And provide the basis for next-generation launch services and “global reach hypersonic and space access aircraft.”

The Masten award is the first of several contract that DARPA is expected to sign for the program.

DARPA Moves Forward With Phoenix, ALASA and XS-1 Projects

Artist's conception of a nominal X-S1 vehicle. (Credit: DARPA)
Artist’s conception of a nominal X-S1 vehicle. (Credit: DARPA)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

DARPA’s proposed budget for FY 2015 calls for a significant increase in its Experimental Spaceplane One (XS-1) program and smaller boosts in the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program and Project Phoenix, budget documents show.

The defense agency has requested $27 million for re-useable XS-1 space plane this year, a significant boost over the $10 million being spent for FY 2014. With the increase in funding, DARPA plans to conduct a preliminary design review (PDR) and select a single vendor for final design, fabrication and flight test in the coming fiscal year, which will start on Oct. 1.

(more…)