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

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
February 25, 2016
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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.

DARPA has been funding three teams to develop XS-1 launchers: Boeing and Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems and XCOR Aerospace, and Northrup Grumman and Virgin Galactic.

The defense agency plans to down select to one contractor that would produce a launch vehicle. Officials have not said when that decision would be made.

A critical design review on the vehicle to be built and tested is scheduled for FY 2017. The contractor would also being to fabricate flight and ground system hardware during that upcoming fiscal year.

DARPA Space Programs & Technology FY 2017 Budget Request
(Millions of Dollars)
FY 2016
FY 2017
XS-1 Fully reusable launch vehicle system $30.0 $50.5
Radar Net Lightweight, low power, wide-band capability for radio frequency communications and remote sensing for satellites $15.0 $40.0
Robotic Servicing of GEO Satellites Robotic servicing services for GEO satellites in collaboration and cooperation with existing satellite owners $12.0 $33 .0
Hallmark Space Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2) capability to allow the effectively management of space assets in real time $10.0 $28.0
Space Surveillance Telescope Advanced ground-based optical system to enable detection and tracking of faint objects in space $9.0 $10.0
Phoenix  Development of technologies to enable in-orbit servicing of satellites $19.0 $8.740
Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) Launch vehicle capable of placing 100 lb. satellite into orbit for less than $1 million per launch $20.0 $0
Optical Aperture Self-Assembly in Space (OASIS) Demonstrate the feasibility of constructing large optical apertures in orbit from a number of smaller modular components that self-organize in space.
$6.0 $0
Space Domain Awareness Develop and demonstrate an operational framework and responsive defense application to enhance the availability of vulnerable space-based resources $5.692 $0
TOTAL:  $126.692 $175.240

While XS-1 would continue, DARPA is ending the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) launcher program after budgeting $80 million for it over two fiscal years.

ALASA aimed at developing a rocket that could place a 100 lb (45 kg) payload into low Earth orbit for less than $1 million per launch using an unmodified F-15 fighter. Tests indicated that Boeing’s mono-propellant had a tendency to explode. DARPA is now evaluating alternative launch systems and propellants.

The research agency has requested significant increases for three on-going programs named Radar Net, Hallmark and Robotic Servicing of GEO Satellites. Spending on the programs would increase by a combined $54 million.

The Space Surveillance Telescope would see a modest budget boost from $9 million to $10 million. Project Phoenix, which is developing technologies for in-space satellite servicing, would see its budget decline from $19 million to $8.74 million.

DARPA is also planning to end two other programs: Space Domain Awareness and Optical Aperture Self-Assembly in Space (OASIS).

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