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 Proposal by Rockwell - Computer Graphic X-33 Proposal by Rockwell - Computer Graphic

Photo Number: EC96-43631-5
Photo Date: May 1996

Formats: 362x480 JPEG Image (40 KBytes)
773x1024 JPEG Image (330 KBytes)
1600x2120 JPEG Image (587 KBytes)

This artist's rendering depicts the Rockwell International X-33 technology demonstrator. This was to be the basis for a Single-Stage-To-Orbit (SSTO) Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). NASA considered design submissions from Rockwell, Lockheed Martin, and McDonnell Douglas. NASA selected Lockheed Martin's design on 2 July 1996. The RLV technology program was a cooperative agreement between NASA and industry. The goal of the RLV technology program was to achieve significant reductions in the cost of access to space, and to promote the creation and delivery of new space services and other activities that were to 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 was to have provided 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 to have been 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 an unpiloted vehicle that would take off vertically like a rocket and land horizontally like an airplane. It was designed 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 will be launched at a special launch site on Edwards Air Force Base. Technical problems with the composite liquid hydrogen tank caused the X-33 program to be 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; Rockwell International

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

NASA Website Privacy Statement