Boeing and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are collaborating to develop a technology demonstration vehicle for the Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 programme.

Boeing will design an autonomous, reusable vehicle called Phantom Express that will be capable of carrying and deploying a small expendable upper stage to launch satellites weighing up to 3,000 lb into low earth orbit. Once the craft reaches the edge of space it will deploy the second stage and return to land on a runway like a conventional aircraft and be readied for its next mission. A liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-fuelled Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine, a version of the Space Shuttle’s main engine, will power Phantom Express. In the test phase of the programme, Boeing and DARPA plan to conduct ten demonstration flights over a ten-day period.

“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,” said Darryl Davis, President, Boeing Phantom Works. “It would offer an advanced airframe design as well as third-generation thermal protection to create a vehicle capable of flying at high flight velocity while carrying a smaller, more affordable expendable upper stage to achieve the mission objectives.”

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