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starship-design: FW: SSRT: X-33 space plane to call Edwards home (fwd)
From: Chris W. Johnson [SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 1997 6:36 PM
To: Single Stage Rocket Technology News
Subject: SSRT: X-33 space plane to call Edwards home (fwd)
From: Andrew Yee <email@example.com>
Subject: X-33 space plane to call Edwards home (Forwarded)
Date: Sat, 13 Dec 1997 11:11:50 -0500
Organization: UTCC Campus Access
[Extracted from Air Force News]
Released: Dec 11, 1997
X-33 space plane to call Edwards home
By 1st Lt. Chris Hemrick, Air Force Flight Test Center Public Affairs
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- Imagine a future where
there is a space plane that lifts off from Edwards Air Force Base and flies
to Malmstrom AFB, Mont. -- a trip of 950 miles -- in approximately 20
Now imagine that future is within two years.
Edwards AFB organizations are teamed up with Lockheed Martin Skunk
Works to develop and test the X-33, which is a 53 percent scale model of
the future Reusable Launch Vehicle, called VentureStar.
Through flight and ground demonstrations, the X-33 will provide
information necessary to allow the Lockheed Martin Corporation to make
a decision on whether to proceed in the development of the full-scale,
commercial single stage to orbit RLV.
If created, the VentureStar would eventually replace the space shuttle as
the next generation space transportation system. "The goal is to lower
costs from approximately $10,000 per pound down to around $1,000 per
pound to get into orbit," said Chuck Rogers, Air Force Flight Test Center
X-33 launch integration engineer/manager, 412th Test Wing 'Access to
Members of Team Edwards who are assisting the Lockheed Martin Skunk
Works and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (the program head)
with this program include the AFFTC, the Air Force Research Laboratory
Propulsion Directorate (AFRL/PR) and the NASA-Dryden Flight Research
"It's a real paradigm shift that the industry pays the government for
products, services and facilities, as a subcontractor to the contractor,"
said Rogers. "We actually prepared proposals and made proposal
presentations, in competition with White Sands, N.M. and the Kennedy
Space Center, Fla., to be the X-33 launch site, like a contractor competing
for a contract.
"Edwards was selected to be the X-33 launch site because of the excellent
launch corridor available for launches toward the northeast, and our
extensive flight test infrastructure and experience, which makes this an
ideal place to test experimental vehicles," said Rogers. "Between Edwards
and Utah, and Edwards and Montana are some of the most sparsely
populated areas in the United States. That's very advantageous for
launching a vehicle like this, since we want the program to be as safe as
"We now have task agreements where we are actually a subcontractor to
the contractor through our launch site and flight planning task agreements."
The X-33 will blast off from the site near Haystack Butte, located at the
eastern edge of Edwards. A 15-flight program is planned for the X-33 from
the launch site now under construction. The X-33 Team has already
defined the first seven flights that will, if successful, provide the data
needed to provide the confidence for a decision to proceed with the full
Construction has already begun on the X-33 and major components are
already taking shape. The large tank that will contain the liquid oxygen
has been completed and will be delivered soon. The final assembly jigs
are already in place at the LMSW facility at Palmdale.
The X-33 is an unmanned, autonomous vehicle that uses differential
Global Positioning System with a radar altimeter for navigation and
landing. "The differential GPS will guide it through its flight and down the
runway for landing," said Rogers. "Some commands can be sent up to the
X-33 from the ground, but the X-33 will operate as an autonomous vehicle
during normal operations. The uplink to the X-33 would only be used if the
vehicle deviates significantly from its planned flight path."
The X-33 preflight and flight operations will be monitored and controlled
from a refurbished operations control center located in Haystack Butte.
There will also be range safety officers at the downrange sites, according
The X-33 is designed to travel at a top speed of Mach 15 (15 times the
speed of sound), which is approximately three miles a second. The
prototype will not achieve orbit, which would require a speed of more than
Once the X-33 is readied for flight, the engines will be fired two times on
the launch pad, with the second firing having a duration of 20 seconds.
The longest flight will be approximately 20 minutes at an altitude of about
55 miles. The plan is to demonstrate a 2-day turnaround for the vehicle,
On Nov. 14, ground was broken for the launch site near Haystack Butte.
Maj. Gen. Richard L. Engel, Edwards AFB commander, predicted that the
X-33 would be a world-class vehicle that researchers will use to learn
incredibly important lessons.
If the venture is a success, a permanent launch facility could be built in
the Edwards area. From here, vehicles could be launched in nearly any
direction except south, with some launches going to equatorial orbits and
some to polar orbits, returning to the central site (Edwards) to be launched
again. This would allow a fleet of RLVs to be based at one site, according
The X-33 is expected to affirm new technology, such as the linear aerospike
engine, a large composite liquid hydrogen tank and the spacecraft's lifting
body design. The engines compensate for altitude and are believed to be
more efficient and a better fit for the wedged-shaped aircraft than
conventional bell nozzle rocket engines, according to NASA officials.
Landing sites include Michael Army Air Field at Dugway Proving Ground
in Utah, and Malmstrom AFB near Great Falls, Montana. One of NASA's
747s will be used to carry the X-33 from its landing destinations back to
Edwards, said Rogers.
The projected date for the X-33 rollout is May, 1999, with its first flight
planned for that July. The program is scheduled to be completed by the
Once the X-33 demonstrates the technology, the contractor will look for
private investors for the RLV, said Rogers.
"If the X-33 program proves successful, there's going to be a competition
for the RLV launch site. The Edwards area will definitely be a competitor,"
"The selection of Edwards for the X-33 launch site is a win-win for both the
program and Edwards, as well as the Antelope Valley," said Johnny
Armstrong, acting chief of the AFFTC Access to Space Office. "AFFTC
participation in the X-33 program provides the opportunity for our
personnel to hone their skills toward support of space-related programs
that could provide valuable payoffs in the future, as the Air Force
transitions into a Space and Air Force.