Enabling rapid response launch

Boeing and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are designing and demonstrating an autonomous, reusable Experimental Spaceplane, called the Phantom Express, to deliver small satellites into orbit with high launch responsiveness. This program is part of the government’s efforts to reduce the cost of satellite launches.

Key Features

Affordable Launcher: The Phantom Express performance goal is to achieve a significant reduction in cost to deploy a 3,000-pound (1,361 kg) spacecraft into low Earth orbit compared to today’s launch vehicles.

Aircraft-like Operations: Phantom Express will demonstrate “aircraft-like” operability. The spaceplane will launch vertically and land horizontally on a runway, allowing for 24-hour preparation and turnaround for its next flight.

Our Role

Aerojet Rocketdyne is the main propulsion provider for the Boeing Phantom Express spaceplane. A variant of the space shuttle main engine (SSME) designated as AR-22, will power the vehicle. Aerojet Rocketdyne is assembling and testing AR-22 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The SSME successfully powered 135 flights of NASA’s Space Shuttle and has more than 1 million seconds of test and flight time experience.

The SSME is the world’s most reliable and thoroughly tested large rocket engine, capable of operating at greater temperature extremes than any mechanical system in regular use today. The SSME has a demonstrated reliability exceeding 0.9996 over 1,100,000 seconds of hot-fire experience. An upgraded version of the SSME, known as RS-25, is slated to power NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) super-heavy-lift rocket.