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NASA Meatball X-34 Technology Testbed Demonstrator  Photo Collection banner
 
X-34 Technology Testbed Demonstrator

X-34 on lakebed prior to tow tests

 
Photo Number: EC00-0226-7
Photo Date: July 20, 2000
 
Formats: 640x621 JPEG Image (213 KBytes)
1280x1242 JPEG Image (1032 KBytes)
3000x2910 JPEG Image (7846 KBytes)
 
Photo
Description:

Following initial captive flight tests last year at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, the X-34 technology demonstrator began a new series of tests last week in which it is being towed behind a semi-truck and released to coast on the Edwards dry lakebed.

On July 20, 2000, it was towed and released twice at speeds of five and 10 miles per hour. On July 24, 2000, it was towed and released twice at 10 and 30 miles per hour.

Twelve tests are planned during which the X-34 will be towed for distances up to 10,000 feet and released at speeds up to 80 miles per hour. The test series is expected to last at least six weeks.

 
Project
Description:

The unpiloted X-34 is a technology testbed demonstrator that is designed to demonstrate key vehicle and operational technologies applicable to future low-cost reusable launch vehicles. The vehicle structure is all-composite with a one-piece delta wing design. The vehicle is 58.3 feet long and has a 27.7-foot wingspan.

The suborbital vehicle was designed and built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Virginia, and is powered by an oxygen and kerosene Fastrac engine that was designed and built by NASAís Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Huntsville, Alabama. Fastrac is only the second American-made engine of the 29 engines developed in the last 25 years. The vehicle is designed to reach speeds of up to Mach 8 and altitudes of up to approximately 250,000 feet. Specific technologies built into the vehicle include composite structures, composite reusable propellant fuel tanks, an advanced thermal protection system, low-cost avionics, leading-edge tiles, and autonomous flight operation systems.

The projectís goal is to reduce the cost of launching payloads into orbit from $10,000 per pound today to one of $1,000 per pound, thereby improving U.S. economic competitiveness. NASA and Orbital, using a small workforce, plan to demonstrate the ability to fly the X-34 every two weeks.

The X-34 was expected in early 2000 to undergo testing in New Mexico, California, and Florida. The first of three X-34 vehicles, a structural test vehicle designated A-1, began captive-carry flights at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in June 1999. Technicians from Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, have assisted in upgrading the A-1 vehicle with structural modifications and integrating avionics, hydraulics, landing gear, and other hardware needed to turn it into a flight vehicle--now known as A-1A--for unpowered glide tests in New Mexico. Following a series of tow tests on the ground at Dryden, the X-34 A-1A will be used to conduct unpowered test flights at the U.S. Armyís White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, according to plans current in early 2000. This test series was expected to use Orbitalís L-1011 carrier aircraft to air-launch the X-34. Powered flights, using the second and third vehicle (designated A-2 and A-3 respectively), are scheduled to be conducted at the Dryden Flight Research Center, California, and the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The X-34 vehicle A-3 was expected in early 2000 to be brought to Dryden for envelope expansion to the maximum capability of an approximate speed of Mach 8 and altitude of 250,000 feet. Plans called for A-3 to explore additional reusable launch vehicle technologies as carry-on experiments. Drydenís project manger was Seunghee Lee as of early 2000.

 
NASA Photo by: Tom Tschida
 
Keywords: X-34; Technology Testbed Demonstrator
 


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