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DARPA Launches Military Spaceplane Project

Soulskill posted 1 year,14 days | from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.

Space 75

RocketAcademy writes "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has launched a new program to develop a reusable first-stage launch vehicle. Experimental Spaceplane 1 (XS-1) would be capable of flying 10 times in 10 days, with a small ground crew, reaching speeds of Mach 10, and deploying a small upper stage to place a 3,000-pound satellite into orbit. The XS-1 program is complementary to the Air Force's Boeing X-37, which is a reusable upper stage. The X-37 is currently launched by an expendable Atlas rocket but could be launched by a vehicle derived from XS-1 in the future. Military planners have dreamed of a two-stage, fully reusable Military Spaceplane for several years, but funding has not materialized up to now."

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Great big (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44881481)

great big greasy fried chicken-eatin bluegummed biglipped frizzyhair chocolatey darkie stinking FUCKING NIGGERS!!

SpaceX (2)

tsotha (720379) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881525)

This seems to dovetail nicely with Elon Musk's plans for a reusable Falcon first stage.

Re:SpaceX (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44881595)

Just shut the fuck up!

Re:SpaceX (5, Interesting)

benjfowler (239527) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881749)

Competition is good.

Although we're comparing apples with oranges here. Many of Elon's technical choices are extremely conservative, e.g. old gas-generator cycle engines, pintle injectors, etc. OTOH, DARPA is doing what DARPA does best -- highly speculative, high-risk, high-payoff research which may or may not result in a working launch vehicle.

What _will_ be interesting, is if DARPA comes up with totally new ways of building tough, low maintenance hypersonic vehicles cheaply.

Re:SpaceX (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,14 days | (#44882487)

You'll still need economical heavy-duty launchers. Not everything can be sent to orbit in two-ton pieces and assembled there.

Re:SpaceX (2)

taiwanjohn (103839) | 1 year,14 days | (#44882951)

I reckon the "real" purpose of the program is to develop a mach-10 air-breathing aircraft, not to put 3-ton payloads in LEO. We already have many options for the latter, and they're getting cheaper all the time. (If that were the goal, they would use off-the-shelf tech to build a slower plane with a bigger rocket.) But hey, I'm not complaining, I'd love to see that kind of aircraft get developed. If they need an "excuse" for funding, that's fine with me.

Re:SpaceX (1)

benjfowler (239527) | 1 year,14 days | (#44883023)

Amen. Somebody stands to make a fortune, when they figure out how to get business-class passengers from LA to Tokyo in 2 hours or less.

Re:SpaceX (1)

RocketAcademy (2708739) | 1 year,13 days | (#44888257)

"I reckon the "real" purpose of the program is to develop a mach-10 air-breathing aircraft"

Certainly not. Hypersonic airbreathers are extremely difficult, and there's an enormous difference between cruise missions (airliners) and acceleration missions (space launch). Airbreathers tend to perform well at a specific velocity (cruise speed) while rockets must perform well over a wide range of speeds.

Jess Sponable knows that, have seen what happened in the X-30 NASP program, and will not go down that route.

Re:SpaceX (1)

Bahamut_Omega (811064) | 1 year,13 days | (#44887375)

Think we could see the start of a U.N. Spacy? Or will we be seeing the possible start of the United Federation of Planets?

If the former, all we need is to see a few functional Valkyrie aircraft. On the other hand, the latter could mean we wind up with something similar to the Enterprise.

3000 pound 'Satellite' (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44881597)

What was the usual warhead size for an ICBM again?

Re:3000 pound 'Satellite' (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44881615)

What was the usual warhead size for an ICBM again?

The size of yo mama now shut the fuck up!

Re:3000 pound 'Satellite' (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44881635)

What was the usual warhead size for an ICBM again?

MUCH smaller than .75 tons...

Re:3000 pound 'Satellite' (1)

AHuxley (892839) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881671)

Reactor shield would be 1000kg, fuel mass 200kg, for ~ 10 years of 100 kilowatts of orbital super computing.

Re:3000 pound 'Satellite' (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881965)

You'd have to factor in quite the heatsink for such a beast. The ISS active thermal control system is not a small device, and is good for only 70kw.

The astrophotography of an uncooled 100kw reactor in a vacuum would probably be pretty neat; but it wouldn't be a good idea.

Re:3000 pound 'Satellite' (1)

LanMan04 (790429) | 1 year,14 days | (#44883885)

Agreed. Getting rid of heat in space is *hard*, due to the fact that you only lose heat through thermal radiation.

There's no convection, conduction, or evaporation in a vacuum without doing "extra work" to make them happen.

Re:3000 pound 'Satellite' (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,13 days | (#44892631)

I suspect that other would-be users of the orbit (and possibly whiny people on the planet's surface) might object; but it would be fascinating to see whether a radiothermal fuel load (which can be a toasty little fellow [wikimedia.org] even on earth) in hard vacuum would end up shedding enough heat by radiation to remain structurally sound, or whether it would get hot enough to become molten or semi-molten and held together largely by surface tension, or whether the vapor pressure of the material at that temperature would be high enough to generate an expanding cloud of zesty vapor.

Terrible plan, of course; but there are a lot of terrible plans that would be fun to watch.

Re:3000 pound 'Satellite' (2)

poity (465672) | 1 year,14 days | (#44883065)

I think this is more likely to be for rapid replacement of GPS & other military satellites in response to other countries developing/having anti-satellite technology. Net-centric warfare is where everyone is going, yet the network part remains the most vulnerable.

wtf??? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44881675)

after reading the pdf I can only say this: stupidity truly has no limits...

As a citizen of this planet... (0, Troll)

GodGell (897123) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881711)

...let me be the first to say: oh shit!!!

Aside from the obvious screaming lunacy of militarizing even Earth orbit, I have to wonder what the hell the "leaders" of this new Amerikan Union are trying to accomplish with this. Surely if they were responding to a threat, they wouldn't be announcing it for the whole planet to know. They want the whole planet to go "fuck, I'm scared of those Americans".

Well, I am. The USSA is terrifying at this point. But that's not going to make people think, "ooh we better be nice to the Americans so they don't kick our asses" - what they're going to be thinking will be more along the lines of "the Americans are dooming us all, we must do something to stop them".

Which, come to think of it, might be exactly what they want: a war that they didn't start.

Re:As a citizen of this site.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44881733)

Oh god, would you just die.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (4, Interesting)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881793)

Dude, do you know anything about DARPA? They fund the far out there project. Some of them work, and some of them don't. They are directly responsible for the current research into self driving cars. A big success, though I'd imagine you're freaking out about that too. News flash, any new technology has military applications.

Spaceplanes aren't even a new idea. Hell, the Pegasus Rocket [wikipedia.org] is able to lift nearly a thousand pounds into orbit. What they really seem to be pushing is scramjet technology. The demonstrators so far flew for a few minutes or less before being crashed into the ocean. Even worse, they used solid rockets to get it up to speed before the scramjet could start working. It's like Chuck Yeager's first flight all over again. First they started with solid rockets to get it up to speed, now they're working on doing it using an air breathing engine.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44881873)

Who funds DARPA and how is the state of those finances? Where does that money come from?

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (0)

mrchaotica (681592) | 1 year,14 days | (#44882787)

Where does that money come from?

Well, DARPA is funded via the Federal budget... so China, mostly.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44885341)

Well, DARPA is funded via the Federal budget... so China, mostly.

Wrong.

It's true that we have high deficits, but the majority of our spending is still paid for by U.S. taxpapers.

And even our debt is primarily held by American bondholders, not by China.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | 1 year,13 days | (#44885377)

It was a joke, numbnuts.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44888685)

It's not funny, especially if you're a US Citizen who's not a douche bag.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (1)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | 1 year,14 days | (#44883545)

Research Development Evaluation and Test part of the Department of Defense portion of the president's budget. The budget is available at http://www.darpa.mil/newsevents/budget.aspx [darpa.mil] .

For those in the acronym game: President's DoD RDT&E funding, cross-service.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881797)

We had issues about 15% of all nuclear powered space missions. From Transit, Nimbus to the Soviet Rorsat 954 over Canada, later Rorsat 1402 and Rorsat 1900.
Whats another spy sat/spaceplane with a cute mission badge? A nice commercial and gov funded workshop for staff and the skill sets are kept.
As for responding to a threat - it can anything from a stealthy mission to placing 'something' over an area very quickly.
The main threat would be budget cuts or been found to be wasting US tax payers cash on something anyone can track again.
Most smart nations have mapped everything the US and Russia put up and can take measures to allow the US and Russia to see just what they want to see.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (1)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881927)

We had issues about 15% of all nuclear powered space missions

At least we learnt from them that a dirty bomb is not a big deal. Any bits large enough to be a long term problem are as trivial to find as bits of nuclear gear from crashed satellites.

what did the Canucks ever do to them?! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | 1 year,14 days | (#44882771)

Actually, what I learned from it was that the Soviets were perfectly willing to nuke Cananadia . From space.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (1)

Xest (935314) | 1 year,14 days | (#44882001)

To be fair I don't think militarisation of space is as scary as it used to be. During the cold war the danger was it turning into an arms race as the USSR and USA try to leapfrog each other, but really at this point we all know the US has won in terms of militarisation, when the USSR collapsed they kept spending and their military tech is a good generation or two ahead of that in Russia or China.

At this point I don't think Russia or China could care too much about trying to compete with something like this when they're still so desperately playing catch up in terms of boats, planes, and tanks.

Russia isn't going to get into another bankrupting arms race and China whilst building it's forces knows it couldn't compete either because even as the world's second largest economy it's still a long way behind and the only economic force that could compete with the US would be a combined-EU arms race but there's not much taste in the EU for an EU-wide military force, nor any reason to try and compete with the US given they're on the same side for the most part.

The game has moved on somewhat now, as we're seeing with Syria, and as we're seeing with China's economic policy the great game is being played in the battlefields of the UN debating chambers, and the world economy. Russia is trying to prevent the US acting internationally by weakening it's position politically, and China is more interested in growing itself, but if it can do so at the expense of the US by creating unfair trade terms that the US can do little to counteract having made itself dependant on Chinese manufacturing then it sees that as a bonus to it's growth.

So for the time being I think America's militarisation of space will be a kind of small side show. I don't think it'll trigger any kind of race by other countries to do the same other than the odd relatively trivial showcase (like China showing off the ability to accurately fling shit at other things in orbit). I think everyone else is playing a different game now and given Putin's recent political coup in completely outflanking Obama over Syria I'm not even sure the US realises that it's less about technical military superiority and more about politics, trade, and economics at this point.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44882657)

In addition to this, it's important to the note that international standards have accepted space as another battle dimension. Just like ground, air, sea, and subsurface. There was a point, when submarines were first being developed and used, where people would say 'Anyone who uses a submarine is a coward'. The same thing is happening with space. Eventually, multiple countries will have militarized space capabilities; we just happen to be watching the beginning of that era.

At the same time, being the first to really militarize space puts the US in an awkward position. If the US declares war and heavily uses its orbital capabilities, then it will be seen as a massacre/genocide rather than a war...so the US has to pick its military targets very carefully.

Also, the UN might decide that - in order for the US to continue expanding into space - an additional provision must be signed stating that the US will have to provide some sort of orbital service to other UN states. Example: if England want's to throw up a satellite, the US absorbs the launch cost and England pays for the transportation to the launch pad or something of that nature.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44882035)

Your'e just whining because you're from the target country we intend to shoot with this.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (2)

mmell (832646) | 1 year,14 days | (#44884169)

So . . . let me be among the first to say: STFU!!!

Aside from the obvious benefit of collateral technologies (computers, jet aircraft, orbital satellites, GPS, etc., etc.), I wonder what the "followers" of the "Old World" are afraid of? Surely if they were as eager as we to create new technologies, they wouldn't sit around whining how we shouldn't do things just because they can't. They want America to go "Hey, never mind that we got here way ahead of you. Let us just sit around so you guys can get a few pages in the history books.

Well, I'm not into that. The United States of America is indeed terrifying at this point, just as I'm sure a muzzle-loaded musket would've been terrifying to a tribesman of the Serengeti. But that's not going to make Americans think "ooh, we'd better not do anything which might frighten the citizens of the emerging (third-world) countries" - we're more likely to think "okay, now that we've figured out how to do xxx we should start thinking about ways to use xxx to let us do more stuff" - you know, like weather prediction, air traffic control, and the internet. All based on technologies which must look like magic to the uneducated.

Which, come to think of it, is exactly what we want: a government which creates and develops technologies that the free enterprise system (despite it's tremendous abilities) will not do. I don't want to drop tons of explosives on hostile personnel at a range of over two thousand miles, but I sure love riding in modern jumbo jets. I may never ride in space with a spy satellite, but I get the benefits of improved weather predication and GPS on my phone. Don't even get me started on antibiotics, surgical techniques, submersible vehicles . . .

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44885233)

What's ironic about this post is that DARPA was fundamental in the creation of the Internet.

Re:As a citizen of this planet... (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,13 days | (#44885363)

You are sending your message over a DARPA project that went well.

Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technology (1, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881727)

The US Space Shuttle and USSR Buran proved conclusively that resusable spaceplanes are hugely wasteful. The only way the X-37B (the current "shuttle") could be considered successful is that it spends more time in the air than on the ground, since it's up for about 6-18 months at a time.
 
Spaceplane mass is wasted mass that can't be used for payload mass. Launch electronics are cheap these days, I am honestly very curious what good a reusable spaceplane provides over existing expendable rockets. As Tsotha mentioned the Falcon 9 will be fully reusable in 4-5 years if everything goes according to plan. Spaceplanes are hugely wasteful, even if they aren't manned.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (4, Insightful)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881747)

The US Space Shuttle and USSR Buran proved conclusively that resusable spaceplanes are hugely wasteful.

Not really, since neither of them was really reusable, more vaguely refurbishable, and both were prototypes with no development path.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44881807)

Shuttles were built for military purposes, not efficiency. Just like this one.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (3, Interesting)

Required Snark (1702878) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881881)

Military requirements are not the same as civilian requirements. RTFA. They state that they want cheaper launches with quick turn around, and very flexible ground station requirements. The closest civilian match is SpaceShip 2, and that does not have orbital capabilities. Orbital Sciences has an air launch small satellite platform, Pegasus [wikipedia.org] but it only puts 980 Lbs in low earth orbit.

DARPA is not always right, but they are not a bunch of dummies either. The see enough need for a spaceplane that they want to invest resources on it. They obviously disagree with you that "Spaceplanes are hugely wasteful".

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (4, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | 1 year,14 days | (#44882031)

no they aren't hugely wasteful. especially the Buran which didn't have the main engines mounted in it. The Buran died with the collapse of the soviet union.

Even the space shuttle put more people into space ever. Russian capsules have another 100 launches or so before they will come close to putting the number of people and equipment that the shuttles did.

Also no one other than the shuttle has gone EVA to repair large satellites.(the hubble repair missions) As they literally can not carry both the people and the equipment.

The waste of the space shuttle came from the fact that it was stripped after every flight had the engines gutted and rebuilt. It used expsensive and fragile tiles for a heat shield.

remove the main engines like Buran did and find a better heat shield. that is what it will take to make the shuttle better.

The shuttle also could do one thing that no other vehicle could do. Bring things home safely. Personally I wish the last shuttle mission was a mission to hubble to bring it back to earth. a fitting tribute the hubble would be permanent display in a museum. You can not do that with any other vehicle design.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44882113)

Well, technically, if the point is reusing the thing, the Buran only launched once, thereby failing to offer that feature.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44883951)

In the MIT OpenCourseware on the shuttle design one of the shuttle designers or engineers that worked on the program said that if the hookups to diagnose the shuttle engines had been included they could be test fired without removing/rebuilding them. That alone would have contributed to a faster turnaround time.

On the tiles, I got tnothing.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44882229)

They're not wasteful if they don't use a massive rocket boosters to fly to space. Make it nuclear powered or something efficient like that. Booster technology has come a long way since the shuttle days. I'm pretty sure that they could create something like a cargo plane fly at mach-10 if they really tried and I don't mean having it strapped to a giant rocket either. If each launch can cost only five million dollars, then it will have been well worth it so long as it could carry as much if not more payload than before.

Kneejerk Response (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44882289)

The kneejerk response is to say bullshit, but I trolled through the responses for anything that looks like a business case, and the only one I can find is for military "responsive launch" type stuff.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44882313)

The US Space Shuttle and USSR Buran proved conclusively that resusable spaceplanes are hugely wasteful.

One poor implementation and one copy of a poor implementation isn't enough to dismiss an entire concept. especially as the STS was hobbled with massively bloated specifications by having the DoD get involved compared to it's original design based on the DynaSoar concept.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44882429)

Yep. A Rocket To Nowhere [idlewords.com] remains the best analysis of this mess that I've seen. If the STS had been built to the original, smaller specs and launched on top of a rocket it still wouldn't have been efficient, but certainly would have been cheaper and safer.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44882501)

I bet you are suffering from the misconception that fuel is a major part of the cost of a launch, so conserving fuel is what matters - that's what I thought too. So I had no clue what the point with reusable rockets/spaceplanes was. In fact the fuel costs very little in comparison to the rocket, IIRC it's not far off from 100:1 in terms of cost. With that knowledge, suddenly the world makes sense again. :) Reusable hardware is a big deal - it potentially offers more than an order of magnitude reduction in launch costs. The US Space Shuttle was a poor solution because it was only reusable after a lengthy and expensive process of fixing it up between each launch. If it was ready to go again the same day it landed and if it only rarely required replacement parts, it would have been much cheaper than the rockets we've got today.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (1)

Hadlock (143607) | 1 year,14 days | (#44884271)

No, the problem is that the shuttle weighed almost a quarter million pounds dry. That is a quarter million pounds of lost launch capacity. Look at the tiny tin cans that the ISS is made of, all glued together. SkyLab had the same internal volume as the entire ISS put together, and it went up on a single rocket. That is the kind of inefficencies you see when you put things up piecemeal with a reusable orbiter instead of a dedicated rocket.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44893795)

SkyLab had the same internal volume as the entire ISS put together, and it went up on a single rocket. T.

I'm going to call shenanigans on that statistic, while at one point Skylab had the same interior volume as the ISS that is now no longer the case. The interior pressurized volume of Skylab was 319.8 m^3 the ISS as it stands now has a pressurized volume of 837 m^3.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44884351)

I came across some estimates of the fuel cost once for the space shuttle. I think it was in the neighborhood of $1-2 Million, most of which was the SRB fuel. That sounds like a lot, but a 747 costs over $200,000 to fuel. So even if you needed 4 times the fuel to launch a fully reusable craft that used a significant amount of solid fuel it would only cost $4-8 million per launch, a cost savings of at least 50 times (also assuming minimization of ground support, administration & turn around costs).

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (1)

dave420 (699308) | 1 year,14 days | (#44883179)

The realisation that instead of carrying massive amounts of oxygen in order to force your way through massive amounts of oxygen is indicative of something rather different to a "dead-end technology". A plane that can take off horizontally, burning atmospheric air while accelerating and climbing, which then switches to using its own on-board oxygen in order to reach orbit makes a lot of sense. The only real challenge there are the engines, which if to be an economically viable solution, have to provide both phases of flight. Luckily, Reaction Engines Ltd. are working on those engines, and have had a lot of success (including creating one of the most impressive heat-exchangers ever seen), and are on their way to developing their first prototype. The Shuttle and Buran were not space planes - they were large, partially-reusable rockets with bits that looked like planes which helped on the return leg back through the atmosphere. Conflating the two isn't going to help the issue. The Space Shuttle, while inspirational, was terrible compared to what it originally promised. Just because no-one has made a viable SSTO space plane yet doesn't mean they are a dead-end technology.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (1)

RocketAcademy (2708739) | 1 year,13 days | (#44888385)

" A plane that can take off horizontally, burning atmospheric air while accelerating and climbing, which then switches to using its own on-board oxygen in order to reach orbit makes a lot of sense."

Until you look at the physics/economics. Extracting oxygen from the atmosphere isn't free. It shows up as drag, which requires more fuel to overcome. The liquid oxygen in a rocket's propellant tank has already had kinetic energy added to it. The oxygen you get from the atmosphere is at a much lower energy state, so you have to add energy to it. This makes high-speed airbreathers very difficult.

The "massive amounts of oxygen" you are saving are actually quite cheap. Liquid oxygen is one of the cheapest fluids you can buy. Cheaper than bottled water. The idea that it's going to be cheaper to manufacture it in flight than on the ground is inherently flawed. What you save in LOX, you lose in additional fuel. Moreover, the fuel needed to make these schemes work is not hydrocarbon (cheap) but liquid hydrogen (expensive). The structures needed to contain LH2 are also expensive, due to the low propellant density. These factors make airbreathing a non-starter.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44883703)

Launch electronics are cheap these days, I am honestly very curious what good a reusable spaceplane provides over existing expendable rockets.

The good is the same good as when you visit your parents for the holidays, you don't throw away the the two 747's you used to fly there and back.

Bending new metal for every flight takes a lot of manpower. It's the cast of thousands where the cost is. If you can swap dozens of man-years of building to a few dozen man-days for maintenance and refuel, that's when you save big. That's why the target is to demo 10 flights in 10 days.

Re:Seriously? Spaceplanes are a dead-end technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44883709)

"proved conclusively that resusable spaceplanes are hugely wasteful."

Their implementation proved very wasteful, but the basic concept wasn't all that bad. The problem was that, at least here in the US, the shuttle program became a symbol of national pride and a good place to hang pork projects. I've seen estimates that say the shuttle only cost about $200-300 million to launch, about the same as a normal expendable launcher with half the payload and no return capability. The rest of the "per launch cost" that is often attributed was maintaining of massive grounds, continuing high level R&D, an obscenely large administrative system & thousands of on the clock experts available for every launch just in case something went wrong. I don't know what Buran ever proved, the Soviet Union collapsed soon after its development was finished.

So basically a revival of X-33/DC-X (4, Interesting)

tlambert (566799) | 1 year,14 days | (#44881947)

So basically a revival of X-33/DC-X, neither of which should have been cancelled in the first place, and they're willing to pay 10X the original estimated launch costs of the most expensive one ($5,000,000 per launch vs. the X-33 estimated cost of $500,000) and 20X the least expensive one ($250,000 estimated per for the DC-X).

Seems a bit redundant compared to simply reviving DC-X.

Re:So basically a revival of X-33/DC-X (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | 1 year,14 days | (#44883821)

Seems a bit redundant compared to simply reviving DC-X.

Of course the DC-X and X-33 were prototype/technology demonstrators - with pretty much none of the capabilities that DARPA wants. They ask for Apollo, and you propose reviving Mercury. What exactly would this accomplish?

Re:So basically a revival of X-33/DC-X (1)

tlambert (566799) | 1 year,13 days | (#44886073)

Seems a bit redundant compared to simply reviving DC-X.

Of course the DC-X and X-33 were prototype/technology demonstrators - with pretty much none of the capabilities that DARPA wants. They ask for Apollo, and you propose reviving Mercury. What exactly would this accomplish?

The common wisdom is that you have to build Mercury before you can build Apollo; personally, I would have skipped the "technology demonstrator" phase and jumped right to building ships, but if you buy that philosophy, then the DARPA request is for another Mercury program before they get an Apollo program, and then the capability they want. So at the very least you skip yet another "let's almost build it than cancel it" Mercury style program.

The X-33 fuel tank problems were never resolved, which means a new spaceplane is going to be about as viable as an X-33 demonstrator, for the same reasons, unless they resolve the storage problem.

The DC-X demonstrator worked. The only capability that the DC-X lacks relative to their requirements is the ability to fly real real fast on a sub orbital flight to drop bombs or gather intelligence; instead you'd have to deploy other hardware or ceramic coated rebar once you got to orbit. Which is more or less OK, since it meets the unstated mission objectives.

Re:So basically a revival of X-33/DC-X (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | 1 year,13 days | (#44887407)

The X-33 fuel tank problems were never resolved, which means a new spaceplane is going to be about as viable as an X-33 demonstrator, for the same reasons, unless they resolve the storage problem.

Well, since the X-33 tank problems were solved in 2005... I fail to see the point. Not to mention the error of believing that lobed conformal tanks are the only solution.
 

The DC-X demonstrator worked.

Sure - in the same way a family sedan can be considered a working technology demonstrator for a high performance Formula One racer. (And setting aside the fact that the DC-X never demonstrated the critical dive-and-swoop transition from re-entry/ballistic flight to powered landing.)
 

The only capability that the DC-X lacks relative to their requirements is the ability to fly real real fast on a sub orbital flight to drop bombs or gather intelligence; instead you'd have to deploy other hardware or ceramic coated rebar once you got to orbit.

Yeah, the only the things DC-X lacks relative to their requirements is pretty much everything specified in the requirements. (Hence my Mercury/Apollo comment.) Did you even read the article, let alone comprehend it?

Mach 10 hypersonic staging?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44881973)

Yeah, a mach 10 staging requirement (as XS-1 is a first stage) means only the big boys will try that. Unless you do a serious boost glide back to launch site, your infrastructure requirements get painful. This seems like a sleazy way to get a boost stage for a hypersonic based precision global strike (PGS) vehicle.

If they really wanted a X-37 launcher that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, they are really going to need a lower staging speed or the first stage will be wayyyy to far downrange. Also, none of the space startups will touch mach 10 staging, so this in no way is promoting commercial space tech development.

Re:Mach 10 hypersonic staging?!? (1)

Thagg (9904) | 1 year,14 days | (#44883597)

I don't think any of the designs will get up to mach 10 in the atmosphere, there's little point. Staging out of the atmosphere is a lot easier. And once you're in space, it's probably easier to kick yourself along (a boosted skip-glide) around the world to get back to the launch point.

The Outer Space Treaty. (1)

Truth_Quark (219407) | 1 year,14 days | (#44882023)

The UN's outer space treaty dates from 1967, and the stated intentions to drive it further were never realised.

The intention seems to be to set up a framework against the weaponization of space.

And so it is the USA that puts those hopes beyond our reach.

Thanks, ally.

Re:The Outer Space Treaty. (1)

idontgno (624372) | 1 year,14 days | (#44884599)

Weapons were in space by 1973. Soviet weapons. [wikipedia.org]

But I'm not sure you're on about, unless you're weirding out about some non-standard definition of "weaponization of space" that involves weapons merely passing through space, in which case the non-weaponization of space was stillborn [wikipedia.org] .

This is rocket science. (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | 1 year,14 days | (#44882117)

Use metric!

Mig 105 / 50-50 Spiral Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44882155)

The Soviets tried this idea back in the 60s. The basically developed the X-37 as a small manned ship. They actually got through gliding tests of this component, the Mig 105, which is now on display in their big aerospace museum outside Moscow.

This is a video showing the concept:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLCUEVp-iU8

Good (1)

argStyopa (232550) | 1 year,14 days | (#44882295)

Maybe this time we'll get a real six million dollar man.

reinventing the X-15 (2)

tekrat (242117) | 1 year,14 days | (#44882967)

Seriously. How much time and money has been wasted constantly trying to re-invent something we had in the mid-60's? The X-15 program was *very* successful, with only one serious accident *and* there was a version with drop tanks for greater range/speed. If they had simply continued this line of development instead of stopping everything to put a man in a tin-can on top of a missile, we'd already be going to space casually, for weekend trips and vacations.

Re:reinventing the X-15 (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44883889)

Your complaint is we stopped, it was bad to do so and we are doing it again..
??

Re:reinventing the X-15 (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | 1 year,14 days | (#44883971)

*golf clap*

Still have X-15 model rocket I built back in '73. Love that plane, um space, um thing!

Re:reinventing the X-15 (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | 1 year,14 days | (#44884649)

The X-15 program was *very* successful, with only one serious accident *and* there was a version with drop tanks for greater range/speed.

Yeah... but if you actually read the history of the flights with the drop tanks, going for extreme performance, you'll find there were a lot of problems. The X-15 was an airplane, not a spaceplane, and growing the former into the latter is not as easy as you seem to think. It's like trying to evolve a submarine from a battle tank.
 

If they had simply continued this line of development instead of stopping everything to put a man in a tin-can on top of a missile, we'd already be going to space casually, for weekend trips and vacations.

Presuming of course that they found cheap and easy solutions to the problems that beset both for the high performance X-15 and the Space Shuttle. That's an awfully big presumption.

Dynasoar (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44888209)

Initially during the days of space exploration, there were 2 programs to get to space. The civilian one which later became NASA, and the military one called Dynosoar (http://www.astronautix.com/craft/dynasoar.htm).

The military one was more ambitious (reusable spacecraft), but the rocket and capsule idea was considered faster and an easier way to catch up to the Russians in the space race. With limited funds and talent, one program was selected, the other axed. It's a pity - when the X-20A was cancelled, it was only 8 months from testing.

That's nothing... (1)

karnat10 (607738) | 1 year,14 days | (#44883433)

my spaceplane can fly 20 times in 20 days!

Skylon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#44884403)

This one look promising:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skylon_%28spacecraft%29

Hasn't this already been done.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44885111)

...by the scientologists?

What about Skylon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44885699)

...sounds as if they're just reinventing the Brit's approach...

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