Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

X-33 Metallic Heat Shield 'Ready For Flight'

Date:
February 4, 1999
Source:
National Aeronautics And Space Administration
Summary:
Development of a low-cost space plane took a step forward last month when one of three technologies essential to its success was declared "ready for flight."

Development of a low-cost space plane took a step forward last month when one of three technologies essential to its success was declared "ready for flight."

The rugged, metallic thermal-protection panels designed for NASA's X-33 technology demonstrator passed an intensive test series that included sessions in high-speed, high-temperature wind tunnels. The panels also were strapped to the bottom of a NASA F-15 aircraft and flight-tested at nearly 1.5-times the speed of sound.

Additional laboratory tests duplicated the environment the X-33's outer skin will encounter while flying roughly 60 miles high at more than 13 times the speed of sound. Also, a thermal-panel fit test successfully demonstrated the ease of panel installation and removal.

The thermal protection system combines aircraft and space-plane design, using easy-to-maintain metallic panels placed over insulating material. As the X-33 flies through the upper atmosphere, the panels will protect the vehicle from aerodynamic stress and temperatures comparable to those a reusable launch vehicle would encounter while re-entering Earth's atmosphere. Tests have verified that the metallic thermal-protection system will protect vehicles from temperatures near 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

"NASA is focusing on creating a next generation of reusable launch vehicles that will dramatically cut the costs associated with getting into space," said Dan Dumbacher, NASA X-33 deputy program manager. "One way to cut costs is to design rugged systems that require less maintenance and that are more airplane-like in their operations.

"By developing and proving these systems, we're creating the ability to build space planes that eventually will fly to orbit, return for servicing, and launch again as often as today's commercial airplanes make scheduled flights," he added. Dumbacher is assigned to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, the lead center for developing future space transportation systems.

The remaining two technologies important for low-cost space access are an efficient propulsion system ideally suited to power a lifting body and, more importantly, lightweight-yet-strong composite cryogenic fuel tanks and structures to minimize vehicle weight. Work on those two challenging technologies continues as the X-33 program enters a phase of intense testing and qualification of the vehicle's components.

NASA expects the metallic thermal-protection panels -- developed and built by team member BFGoodrich Aerospace/Aerostructures Group in Chula Vista, CA -- to dramatically cut maintenance time and costs associated with more fragile thermal-tile systems. Because the metallic panels on the lower surfaces of the X-33 make up the vehicle's windward, aerodynamic structural shell, the system also will obtain significant weight savings over traditional thermal systems, while being much more durable and waterproof.

The X-33 is a half-scale technology demonstrator of a full-scale, commercially developed reusable launch vehicle (RLV) which Lockheed Martin has named "VentureStar", planned for development after the turn of the century. Through airplane-like operations and a single-stage-to-orbit design, a full-scale RLV could dramatically reduce the cost of putting payloads into space from $10,000 per pound to $1,000 per pound.

The X-33 is scheduled to make as many as 15 test flights from Edwards Air Force Base, CA, to Dugway Proving Ground, UT, and Malmstrom Air Force Base, MT, beginning in 2000.

Although suborbital, the X-33 will fly high enough and fast enough to encounter conditions similar to those experienced on an orbital flight path to fully prove its systems and performance.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Aeronautics And Space Administration. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "X-33 Metallic Heat Shield 'Ready For Flight'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/02/990204082124.htm>.
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. (1999, February 4). X-33 Metallic Heat Shield 'Ready For Flight'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/02/990204082124.htm
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "X-33 Metallic Heat Shield 'Ready For Flight'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/02/990204082124.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Climate Change Could Cost Billions, According To White House

Newsy (July 29, 2014) A report from the White House warns not curbing greenhouse gas emissions could cost the U.S. billions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stranded Whale Watching Boat Returns to Boston

Stranded Whale Watching Boat Returns to Boston

Reuters - US Online Video (July 29, 2014) Passengers stuck overnight on a whale watching boat return safely to Boston. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

Baluchistan Mining Eyes an Uncertain Future

AFP (July 29, 2014) Coal mining is one of the major industries in Baluchistan but a lack of infrastructure and frequent accidents mean that the area has yet to hit its potential. Duration: 01:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

AP (July 29, 2014) The U.S. nuclear industry started building its first new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and prevent the cost overruns that crippled the sector decades ago. So far, it's not working. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins