Friday, October 13, 2000
Huntsville, AL--NASA and Lockheed Martin have announced
restructuring of the X-33 reusable spaceplane demonstrator program. The vehicle,
which was previously slated to make its first flight this year, won't liftoff
now until 2003 (see Design News 9/6/1999, p. 82 or www.manufacturing.net/magazine/dn/archives/1999/dn0906.99/feature1.html
for technology details).
The vehicle's carbon-composite liquid-hydrogen fuel tank failed
load testing last November due to microcracks in its structure. The vehicle is
currently about three-quarters completed and 95% of its components have been
built and delivered. Except for a new aluminum hydrogen tank, which is being
designed, the demonstrator is to be completed by the end of this year. Gene
Austin, NASA program manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center says, "The
aluminum tank design still permits us to demonstrate the technologies for a
reusable, single-stage, next-generation vehicle."
The revamped program calls for greater emphasis on mission safety
and additional ground demonstration of critical technology prior to first
flight. No additional NASA funds are needed through March 2001. Lockheed Martin
will compete for the additional funding needed to complete the project under the
agency's Space Launch Initiative program.