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

X-34 rollout ceremony April 30, 1999

Photo Number: EC99-44989-9
Photo Date: 30 Apr 1999
Formats: 558x480 JPEG Image (73 KBytes)
1190x1024 JPEG Image (369 KBytes)
3030x2606 JPEG Image (3462 KBytes)



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: Tony Landis
Keywords: X-34 Images

Last Modified: January 22, 2005
Responsible NASA Official: Marty Curry
Curator: PAO Webmasters

NASA Website Privacy Statement