Boeing reveals hypersonic passenger jet design and works with DARPA on spaceplane

Boeing revealed its first passenger-carrying hypersonic concept plane at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference in Atlanta this week.

The passenger concept can be used for military or commercial applications. It is just one of several hypersonic vehicle concepts spanning a wide range of potential applications company engineers are studying. Engineers are working companywide to develop enabling technology will position the company for the time when customers and markets are ready to reap the benefits of hypersonic flight.

Boeing Phantom Express hypersonic spaceplane targeted for 2020 unveiling

Aerojet Rocketdyne revealed the first rocket engine for Boeing new “Phantom Express” hypersonic spaceplane. The spaceplane is for a DARPA program for rapid deployment of satellites into space. The AR-22 engine can be reused for up to 55 missions.

DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane program (formerly known as XS-1) aims to build and fly the first of an entirely new class of hypersonic aircraft.

DARPA wants a fully reusable unmanned vehicle, roughly the size of a business jet, which would take off vertically like a rocket and fly to hypersonic speeds. The vehicle would not have external boosters, powered solely by self-contained cryogenic propellants. After it reaches a high suborbital altitude, the booster would release an expendable upper stage able to deploy a 3,000-pound satellite to polar orbit. The reusable first stage would then return to Earth, landing horizontally like an aircraft, and be prepared for the next flight, potentially within hours. As the next step toward a future of routine, responsive, and low-cost space access, DARPA has awarded Phases 2 and 3 of the program to The Boeing Company.

DARPA and Boeing plan to have a test where the spaceplane is flown 10 times in 10 days, with an additional final flight carrying the upper-stage payload delivery system.

Phase 2 of the Experimental Spaceplane program includes design, construction, and testing of the technology demonstration vehicle through 2019. It calls for initially firing the vehicle’s engine on the ground 10 times in 10 days to demonstrate propulsion readiness for flight tests.

Phase 3 objectives include 12 to 15 flight tests, currently scheduled for 2020. After multiple shakedown flights to reduce risk, the technology demonstration vehicle would aim to fly 10 times over 10 consecutive days, at first without payloads and at speeds as fast as Mach 5. Subsequent flights are planned to fly as fast as Mach 10, and deliver a demonstration payload between 900 pounds and 3,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.