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DARPA Looks to Space Flight for National Defense




One of the fastest ways to find funding in the United States government is by admitting that your research could have military applications. The United States military budget is higher than the next eight countries on the world-list, combined. NASA, one of America’s proudest institutions, routinely struggles to find enough funding for their research to look beyond the stars or to work on the concept of sending humans to Mars. This isn’t a problem for DARPA. DARPA, which stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is spearheading a new approach to reusable space planes that coincides right in line with keeping America as the most mighty military on the planet. As a result, we could be seeing a massive influx of American taxpayer dollars pushed toward the cause.

Fred Kennedy is the director a the Tactical Technology Office of DARPA and as such it was his responsibility to come to the press and speak on their projected use with reusable space planes. Kennedy said, “We are, frankly, in the midst of what I believe is a little bit of a crisis.” Kennedy goes on to explain that, right now, it is simply too expensive and too slow of a job to get satellites built and launched into space. Delays, long lead times, and other technological hurdles have put a major crimp on DARPA’s desire to try and make military use out of NASA’s work. Kennedy went so far as to say that this myriad of problems is a fundamental national security risk.

Kennedy said in his speech that taking 20 years to build a “constellation of geosatellites” was simply not sustainable, and a very real problem. The reason, according to Kenny, was “Because someone else might figure out how to put up similar capabilities or develop countermeasures in that period.” Kennedy went on to make the pointed observation that nations hostile to the United States could be the ones behind such a technological breakthrough. This is why DARPA is putting all hands on deck for what they are calling the XS-1 — a reusable space plane that could get satellites up and into orbit while also providing utility service to older satellites.

The XS-1 is a neat little concept that is predicated on a vertical launch using technology built by the team at Aerojet Rocketdyne. Kennedy explained that DARPA’s goal is to get a reusable space plane that could go to space “10 times in 10 days.” The sheer impact of such a project would shake the very realm of space flight forever.

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