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For Release: May 8, 1996
WITH GROUND TESTS COMPLETE, DC-XA TO RESUME FLIGHTS THIS MONTH
The Delta Clipper-Experimental Advanced (DC-XA), a single stage rocket developed by NASA and McDonnell Douglas Aerospace, yesterday completed a series of ground tests at the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and now is being readied for flight.
The DC-XA will undergo a series of five flight tests beginning no earlier than May 17. The date for the first test will be determined later this week.
"Flight testing the DC-XA will provide information about the performance of composite materials and other advanced technologies in the launch vehicle as it encounters the conditions of flight, such as temperature, pressure andnoise. This information will be very valuable for the X-33 technology demonstrator NASA and an industry partner will develop in the future," said Dan Dumbacher, NASA's DC-XA program manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL. Marshall is the host center for NASA's Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Program.
The U.S. Air Force's Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, will manage flight test operations.
The DC-XA evolved from the DC-X, which the U.S. Air Force flew eight times between August 1993 and July 1995. The 43-foot-high existing airframe was extensively modified by replacing existing systems with a composite hydrogen tank; a Russian-built aluminum-lithium alloy liquid oxygen tank; a composite intertank to connect the hydrogen and oxygen tanks; and an auxiliary propulsion system which includes a composite liquid hydrogen feedline, a composite liquid hydrogen valve, a liquid-to-gas conversion system reaction control system, and a Russian auxiliary power unit providing redundant hydraulic power for flight control.
"When DC-XA lifts off from its launch stand, it will be the first time a rocket has flown with a composite hydrogen tank. This innovation and the many other technology enhancements included in the vehicle will make its flight testing very challenging," said Dumbacher.
Ground testing of the DC-XA exercised all of the vehicle subsystems and showed the vehicle is ready for flight, Dumbacher said. It included three firings of DC-XA's main propulsion system, between three and 20 seconds in duration, and up to 95 percent thrust level.
McDonnell Douglas is supported in the preparation of DC-XA for flight by Aerojet, prime developer of the auxiliary propulsion system; Lockheed Martin Corporation, developer ofthe ground propellant system, and by Rockwell International, which provided an acoustic structural health monitoring system for the hydrogen tank.
The DC-XA, X-34 and X-33, and related long term technology development efforts, comprise NASA's Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Program, a partnership among NASA, the Air Force and private industry to develop a new generation of single-stage-to-orbit launch vehicles. The X-34, a small technology demonstrator, will undergo test flight in 1998 while the X-33 large technology demonstrator is planned for test flight in 1999. Success of the X-33 could lead to a national, industry-led decision to develop a commercial reusable launch vehicle early next century. Such a vehicle would dramatically reduce the cost of launching payloads into space.
NOTE TO REPORTERS/EDITORS:
A news media briefing on DC-XA will be broadcast on NASA TV at 2 p.m. EDT on Monday, May 13. The briefing will originate from Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL. Participants will be Gary Payton, Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Program director; Dan Dumbacher, NASA DC-XA program manager; Dave Schweikle, McDonnell Douglas DC-XA program manager; and Lt. Col. Jess Sponable, USAF, NASA deputy for Flight Test Operations.
Viewing of the planned May 17 flight test is not available to the general public. News media representatives may attend by pre-registering with the White Sands MissileRange Public Affairs Office; accreditation must be requested in writing. The mailing address is: Public Affairs Office, Building 122, White Sands Missile Range, NM, 88002. The office facsimile machine number is 505/678-7174.
All frequency transmissions are restricted within White Sands Missile Range. Anyone using any kind of equipment which transmits a signal (i.e. satellite equipment, microwave equipment, cellular telephones, wireless microphones, etc.) must have prior approval from the missile range's Department of Defense Area Frequency Coordinator, Tom Banks, at 505/678-1510. Requests must be submitted no later than May 14.