Vice President Al Gore announced on July 2 that Lockheed Martin has been selected to build the X-33 test vehicle, a one-half scale model of the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) which will be used to demonstrate advanced technologies that will dramatically increase reliability and lower the costs of putting payloads into space.
Lockheed Martin will design, build and conduct the first test flight of the X-33 test vehicle by March 1999, and onduct at least fifteen flights by December 1999. NASA has budgeted $941 million for the project through 1999.
Called "VentureStar," the Lockheed Martin design is based on a lifting body shape with a radical new aerospike engine and a rugged metallic thermal protection system which would be launched vertically like a rocket and land horizontally like an airplane.
NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin said the objective of the RLV technology program is simple. "We want to develop technologies that will allow industry to build a vehicle that takes days, not months, to turn-around; dozens, not thousands of people to operate; reliability ten times better than anything flying today; and launch costs that are a tenth of what they are now. Our goal is a reusable launch vehicle that will cut the cost of a pound of payload to orbit from $10,000 to $1,000."
The X-33 will integrate and demonstrate all the technologies in a scale version that would be needed for industry to build a full-size RLV. "The X-33 will be about half the size of a full-scale RLV. It will be a remotely-piloted, sub-orbital vehicle, capable of altitudes up to 50 miles and speeds of Mach 15," said RLV Director Gary Payton.
Original file name: .CNI - New X-33 RLV 7.12
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