Marking a major milestone in the X-37 project, an 85 percent scale test vehicle of the experimental space plane was delivered to NASA Friday for flight testing.
The X-40A test vehicle, first built for the Air Force by the Boeing Co. at its Seal Beach, Calif., facility, and successfully flight tested at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., was shipped from Boeing to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif. The X-37 is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. At Dryden, the X-40A will undergo a series of ground and air tests later this year to reduce possible risks to the larger X-37 — including a drop test from a helicopter to check guidance and navigation systems planned for use in the X-37.
The X-37 is designed to demonstrate technologies in the orbital and reentry environments for next-generation reusable launch vehicles that will increase both safety and reliability, while reducing launch costs from $10,000 per pound to $1,000 per pound.
The X-37, carried into orbit by the Space Shuttle, is planned to fly two orbital missions in 2002/2003 to test reusable launch vehicle technologies.
"Delivery of the X-40A is an important step toward getting us ready for our first unpowered X-37 test flight in 2001, then orbital flights," said Susan Turner, X-37 project manager at the Marshall Center. "The X-40A tests at Dryden will ensure that the X-37 mission is safe and successful."
"We are extremely proud of our team and the work they have done to improve and enable delivery of the X-40A to Dryden Flight Research Center," said Dick Cervisi, Boeing X-37 program manager. "In order to support the test goals of X-37, the X-40A has received a number of modifications including improved instrumentation and telemetry, a new integrated INS/GPS payload, upgraded power systems, and additional redundancy for range safety."
The X-37 government team, led by the Marshall Center, includes NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.; Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Tex.; Kennedy Space Center at Cape Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; Dryden Flight Research Center and USAF’s Air Force Flight Test Center, both at Edwards Air Force Base in Edwards, Calif.; and the Space and Missile Systems Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M. The X-37 industry team is led by Boeing at Seal Beach.
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