Skip Top nav bar link group topnav end piece go to business section go to education section go to history section go to gallery section go to news section go to organizations section go to research section go to search engine go to site index topnav end piece
NASA Meatball NASA Dryden X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator banner
X-33 by Lockheed Martin on Launch Pad - Computer Graphic X-33 by Lockheed Martin on Launch Pad - Computer Graphic

Photo Number: EC96-43631-1
Photo Date: May 1996

Formats: 558x480 JPEG Image (69 KBytes)
1191x1024 JPEG Image (409 KBytes)
2000x1720 JPEG Image (480 KBytes)

This is an artist's conception of the VentureStar single-stage-to orbit Reuseable Launch Vehicle (RLV) on its launch pad, ready for lift-off into orbit. The X-33 was intended to be a technology demonstrator vehicle for such a possible RLV. The RLV technology program was a cooperative agreement between NASA and industry. The goal of the RLV technology program was to enable significant reductions in the cost of access to space, and to promote the creation and delivery of new space services and other activities that would improve U.S. economic competitiveness.

The X-33 is a wedged-shaped subscale technology demonstrator prototype of a potential future Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) that Lockheed Martin has dubbed VentureStar. The company hopes to develop VentureStar early this century. Through demonstration flight and ground research, NASA's X-33 program will provide the information needed for industry representatives such as Lockheed Martin to decide whether to proceed with the development of a full-scale, commercial RLV program.

The X-33 design was based on a lifting body shape with two revolutionary "linear aerospike" rocket engines and a rugged metallic thermal protection system. The vehicle also was to have lightweight components and fuel tanks built to conform to the vehicle's outer shape. Time between X-33 flights was planned to be seven days, but the program had hoped to demonstrate a two-day turnaround between flights during the flight-test phase of the program.

The X-33 was to have been an unpiloted vehicle that would have taken off vertically like a rocket and then land horizontally like an airplane. It was intended to reach altitudes of up to 50 miles and high hypersonic speeds. The X-33 Program was managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center and was to have been launched at a special launch site on Edwards Air Force Base. Technical problems with the vehicle's composite liquid hydrogen tank resulted in the X-33 being cancelled in February 2001.

NASA Photo by: Computer art by J. Frassanito & Associates

Keywords: X-33; Lockheed Martin; VentureStar; RLV; Reusable Launch Vehicle; aerospike rocket engines; Dryden Flight Research Center; Marshall Space Flight Center; lifting bodies

Last Modified: December 21, 2004
Responsible NASA Official: Marty Curry
Curator: PAO Webmasters

NASA Website Privacy Statement