NASA will unveil a new reusable, robotic rocket plane in the high desert of California next week.
The first of three X-34 demonstration vehicles will be "rolled out" at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA, on Friday, April 30, opening an era of low-cost reusable space planes.
The X-34, a single-engine rocket plane, will fly itself using onboard computers. The vehicle is approximately 58 feet long, 28 feet wide at wing tip and 11 feet tall from the bottom of the fuselage to the top of the tail. The X-34 will launch from an L-1011 airliner and will reach altitudes of up to 250,000 feet and travel up to eight times faster than the speed of sound.
Flights of the X-34 will test many new technologies: composite material structures, composite tanks and new, integrated avionics. The vehicle also will demonstrate the ability to fly through inclement weather, land horizontally at a designated landing site, and safely abort during flight. The planned 27 flights within a year will demonstrate the program's ability to fly within 24 hours of its last mission, using a small ground crew.
The X-34 has completed ground vibration tests, ensuring there will be no potentially hazardous vibrations during flight. The L-1011 and the X-34 prototype were tested separately and together at Dryden.
After the rollout, the X-34 will be mounted underneath the L-1011 and flown on "captive-carry" flights to allow the Federal Aviation Administration to approve modifications to the L-1011. When powered flights begin for X-34, the demonstrator will be carried aloft and separate from the L-1011 before igniting its rocket engine. Following the powered portion of flight, the unpiloted X-34 will land horizontally, initially on a dry lakebed and eventually on a runway.
The April 30 rollout, which is open to the media, will air live on NASA Television. A press conference will be held at 1 p.m. EDT, and the rollout ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. EDT. For accreditation and more information, reporters should contact Leslie Mathews at Dryden Public Affairs on (661) 258-3893.
NASA TV is available on GE-2, transponder 9C at 85 degrees west longitude, with vertical polarization. Frequency is on 3880.0 megahertz, with audio on 6.8 megahertz.
In a cooperative program among NASA Centers, Dryden will provide flight-testing and ground vibration testing. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, manages the X-34 project. Orbital Sciences Corporation Dulles, VA, is designing, developing and testing the vehicle.
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