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NASA Meatball NASA Dryden X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator banner
VentureStar by Lockheed Martin Releasing Satellite - Computer Graphic VentureStar by Lockheed Martin Releasing Satellite - Computer Graphic

Photo Number: EC96-43631-3
Photo Date: May 1996

Formats: 558x480 JPEG Image (67 KBytes)
1191x1024 JPEG Image (446 KBytes)
2000x1720 JPEG Image (558 KBytes)

This is an artist's conception of the NASA/Lockheed Martin Single-Stage-To-Orbit (SSTO) Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) releasing a satellite into orbit around the Earth. The X-33 was designed 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 was also to have used lightweight components and fuel tanks built to conform to the vehicle's outer shape. Time between X-33 flights was planned to normally 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 took off vertically like a rocket and landed horizontally like an airplane. It would have reached altitudes of up to 50 miles and high hypersonic speeds. The X-33 Program was managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center and will be launched at a special launch site on Edwards Air Force Base. Technical problems with the X-33's composite liquid hydrogen tank resulted in the program 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
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