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starship-design: FW: SSRT: X-33 Metallic Heat Shield Ready For Flight (fwd)

-----Original Message-----
From: listserv@ds.cc.utexas.edu [mailto:listserv@ds.cc.utexas.edu] On
Behalf Of Chris W. Johnson
Sent: Thursday, February 04, 1999 5:53 PM
To: Single Stage Rocket Technology News
Subject: SSRT: X-33 Metallic Heat Shield Ready For Flight (fwd)

From: baalke@kelvin.jpl.nasa.gov (Ron Baalke)
Newsgroups: sci.space.news
Subject: X-33 Metallic Heat Shield Ready For Flight
Followup-To: sci.space.policy
Date: 4 Feb 1999 14:31 UT
Organization: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Lines: 95

Jim Cast
Headquarters, Washington, DC                   February 3, 1999
(Phone:  202/358-1779)

Dom Amatore
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL
(Phone:  256/544-0031)

Ron Lindeke
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Palmdale, CA
(Phone:  805/572-4153)

RELEASE:  99-9


     Development of a low-cost space plane took a step forward
last month when one of three technologies essential to its success
was declared "ready for flight".

     The rugged, metallic thermal-protection panels designed for
NASA's X-33 technology demonstrator passed an intensive test
series that included sessions in high-speed, high-temperature wind
tunnels.  The panels also were strapped to the bottom of a NASA F-
15 aircraft and flight-tested at nearly 1.5-times the speed of

     Additional laboratory tests duplicated the environment the X-
33's outer skin will encounter while flying roughly 60 miles high
at more than 13 times the speed of sound.  Also, a thermal-panel
fit test successfully demonstrated the ease of panel installation
and removal.

     The thermal protection system combines aircraft and space-
plane design, using easy-to-maintain metallic panels placed over
insulating material.  As the X-33 flies through the upper
atmosphere, the panels will protect the vehicle from aerodynamic
stress and temperatures comparable to those a reusable launch
vehicle would encounter while re-entering Earth's atmosphere.
Tests have verified that the metallic thermal-protection system
will protect vehicles from temperatures near 1,800 degrees

      "NASA is focusing on creating a next generation of reusable
launch vehicles that will dramatically cut the costs associated
with getting into space," said Dan Dumbacher, NASA X-33 deputy
program manager.  "One way to cut costs is to design rugged
systems that require less maintenance and that are more airplane-
like in their operations.

     "By developing and proving these systems, we're creating the
ability to build space planes that eventually will fly to orbit,
return for servicing, and launch again as often as today's
commercial airplanes make scheduled flights," he added.  Dumbacher
is assigned to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville,
AL, the lead center for developing future space transportation

     The remaining two technologies important for low-cost space
access are an efficient propulsion system ideally suited to power
a lifting body and, more importantly, lightweight-yet-strong
composite cryogenic fuel tanks and structures to minimize vehicle
weight.  Work on those two challenging technologies continues as
the X-33 program enters a phase of intense testing and
qualification of the vehicle's components.

     NASA expects the metallic thermal-protection panels --
developed and built by team member BFGoodrich
Aerospace/Aerostructures Group in Chula Vista, CA -- to
dramatically cut maintenance time and costs associated with more
fragile thermal-tile systems.  Because the metallic panels on the
lower surfaces of the X-33 make up the vehicle's windward,
aerodynamic structural shell, the system also will obtain
significant weight savings over traditional thermal systems, while
being much more durable and waterproof.

     The X-33 is a half-scale technology demonstrator of a full-
scale, commercially developed reusable launch vehicle (RLV) which
Lockheed Martin has named "VentureStar", planned for development
after the turn of the century.  Through airplane-like operations
and a single-stage-to-orbit design, a full-scale RLV could
dramatically reduce the cost of putting payloads into space from
$10,000 per pound to $1,000 per pound.

     The X-33 is scheduled to make as many as 15 test flights from
Edwards Air Force Base, CA, to Dugway Proving Ground, UT, and
Malmstrom Air Force Base, MT, beginning in 2000.

     Although suborbital, the X-33 will fly high enough and fast
enough to encounter conditions similar to those experienced on an
orbital flight path to fully prove its systems and performance.

                           - end  -