Volume 6, Number 2 March/April 1998
Aerospace Technology Development
Space Payload Reduction Research Expanded
est objectives for the X-34 program, expected to lower the cost of putting a pound of payload into space, will be expanded and a second flight vehicle produced as a result of NASA modifying its X-34 contract with Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Virginia. The second vehicle will provide flexibility in demonstrating various technologies, allowing simultaneous testing of required repetitive flights and significant but time-consuming required changes to the vehicle.
Capable of flying eight times the speed of sound and reaching an altitude of 250,000 feet, the X-34 will demonstrate low-cost reusability, autonomous landing, subsonic flights through inclement weather, safe abort conditions and landing in 20-knot cross winds. The X-34 is a small, reusable technology demonstrator with a single-engine rocket, short wings and a small tail surface. The vehicle is 58.3 feet long, 27.7 feet wide at wing tip and 11.5 feet tall from the bottom of the fuselage to the top of the tail.
In August 1996, NASA entered into a $50 million contract with Orbital Sciences to design, build and test-fly the X-34. An additional $10 million was committed by NASA to be spent in direct support of the X-34 by NASA's field centers and other government agencies. Now the contract has been increased by $7.7 million to purchase long-lead-time hardware, including a new wing, fuselage, avionics set, hydraulic pump, actuator system and more.
NASA has committed $2 million more for the government to provide wind tunnel testing, additional testing and analysis, and a second leading-edge thermal protection system. An $8.5 million option calls for the purchase of shorter lead-time hardware, such as navigation systems, while a $1.8 million option has been added for the assembly of piece parts into subsystems, integration and final assembly.
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 the development of a future reusable launch vehicle. 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.
For more information, contact Don Amatore at Marshall Space Flight Center.
the X-34 vehicle's cost-cutting