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For Release: April 15, 1997
NASA, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TEAM UP FOR X-34 PROGRAM
Six NASA centers, Department of Defense installations (White Sands Missile Range, Holloman Air Force Base) and an industry team being led by the prime contractor Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., are playing key roles in the development and eventual flight testing of the X-34 Technology Testbed Demonstrator. The program is managed by the Marshall Space Fight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
The X-34 is designed to bridge the gap between the earlier Clipper Graham, or DC-XA, subsonic demonstrator vehicle, and the larger, more advanced X-33 vehicle. The X-34 will demonstrate key technologies applicable to development of a future Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). The overall goal of these vehicle programs is to demonstrate the key technologies needed to dramatically lower the cost of putting a pound of payload into space by a factor of 10 or more.
Plans call for the reusable X-34 to fly up to 25 times within a year's period beginning in late 1998. The autonomously operated, suborbital aerospace vehicle will be air-launched from an L-1011 airliner. It will reach speeds of Mach 8, and fly at altitudes of approximately 50 miles. The winged, single-stage craft also will demonstrate the ability to conduct subsonic flights through rain or fog, and autonomous landings in cross winds of up to 20 knots.
Key technologies being demonstrated by the X-34 include composite primary and secondary airframe structures; composite reusable propellant tanks, cryo insulation and propulsion system elements; advanced Thermal Protection Systems and materials; low-cost avionics, including differential Global Positioning System and Inertial Navigation System; integrated vehicle health monitoring system; flush air data system; and automated vehicle checkout. The X-34 also will have the potential to serve as a platform for demonstration of additional technologies and experiments.
The X-34 will be powered by the Fastrac engine, which is currently in design and development at the Marshall Center. Fastrac is a single-stage main engine which burns a mixture of liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene (RP-1).
Involvement of all the team members is essential in providing key elements in the design and vehicle development. The six NASA centers playing key roles in supporting the X-34 program are:
Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif.
Ames Research Center is providing the low-cost, low-weight thermal protection systems and materials for the leading edges and nose cap of the vehicle. The X-34 will utilize Silicone Impregnated Reusable Ceramic Ablators (SIRCA) on the leading edges and other critical heating areas, and silica cloth/silica fiber quilts over the large areas which will be subject to less heating. Ames also has the capability to conduct fluid dynamics analysis and heating analysis in support of the program.
Point of contact: Bob Yee, 415-604-4122.
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Dryden Flight Research Center will be involved in flight operations and support, in conjunction with White Sands Missile Range, White Sands Test Facility and Holloman Air Force Base, all in New Mexico. Key areas in Dryden's support include hypersonic flight research, avionics, test operations facilities, and ground facilities and range support. Dryden is also assisting Orbital Sciences Corp. in gaining Federal Aviation Administration certification of the L-1011 aircraft.
Point of contact: Jerry Budd, 805-258-3377.
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Kennedy Space Center is supporting the program as a possible launch site for a portion of 25 optional flights which may be conducted at the completion of the two flight tests called for in the initial contract.
Point of contact: Joel Blum, 407-867-4553.
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
Langley Research Center will provide key aerodynamics and flying qualities testing and analysis using its subsonic and supersonic wind tunnel facilities. Langley also features aerothermal dynamics, fluid dynamics analysis, model design and fabrication, and systems and vehicle analysis capabilities.
Point of contact: Davy Haynes, 804-864-8214.
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
Along with being the home to the X-34 program management team, Marshall is also developing the X-34's main propulsion system. This includes the design and complete build package for the propulsion system components, as well as the Fastrac engine.
Fastrac is a single-stage, gas-generator cycle, 60,000-pound-thrust main engine which burns a mixture of LOX and RP-1. The engine features one turbopump, and a single-use combustion chamber and bell-shaped nozzle that will be replaced after each powered flight.
Point of contact: Jack Levine, program manager, 202-358-4666; Mike Allen, deputy program manager, 205-544-5611; Fastrac, Danny Davis, 205-544-3145.
White Sands Test Facility, N.M. (and Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.)
Johnson Space Center's White Sands Test Facility is leading the support effort for conducting the initial flights of the X-34.
Point of contact: Richard Lopez, 505-524-5155.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Attached is a fact sheet on the X-34. For more information on the vehicle or NASA's Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) programs, visit the RLV Web site at http://rlv.msfc.nasa.gov, or contact: Dominic Amatore, Public Affairs Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, Ala. 35812. Phone: 205/544-0031.