The US military is going to launch a secretive, special experimental plane that works like a rocket.
The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency will work with Boeing to make the “Phantom Express” – a spaceplane that will be able to fly up into space at super-fast speeds and then drop back down again.
As it does so, it will be able to efficiently drop off satellites at the edge of space. It would then head back down and land on a runway – ready to be prepared for the next mission, just as modern aircraft work.
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“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 who is president of Boeing’s experimental Phantom Works division.
The plane will be powered with an existing version of the engine that carried the Space Shuttle into space. It is made to be reusable and uses liquid oxygen and rocket fue to power itself.
That would be wrapped around the Phantom Express plane itself, which would be able to fly at high velocity and carry a smaller, expandable outer stage that would drop off once it reaches space.
Initially and during demonstrations, Boeing and Darpa hope they can demonstrate the plane by flying 10 flights in 10 days.
Boeing and Darpa didn’t say to what use those satellites would be put, or why they were developing the plane.