overruns make the headlines. The GAO (General Accounting
Office) report mentioned below finds that the project is more
than $300M over its initial cost and 16 months behind schedule.
This was caused by problems with the development of the engines
and hydrogen tanks. Also, the top speed will reach Mach 13 instead
of Mach 15. (L.A.Times article says top speed is Mach 11.) The
report has caught the attention of most major media outlets.
e.g. [--Link Dead--]L.A. Times - Glitches Slow Rocket
Plane Development * Space.com
- Congressional Report Blasts X-33
See the recent
Bulletin for a perspective on the NASA approach to the X-33.
briefs...Support for loan guarantees to private companies
developing reusable launch vehicles is growing in Congress.
( [--Link Dead--]Space.com - Support for Space Launch Legislation
Grows) Earlier versions of a proposed bill by Sen. John
Breaux (D-Louisiana) were previously opposed by the small startup
companies (e.g. Kelly and Rotary) due to fears it would only
benefit Lockheed-Martin's VentureStar. However, changes in the
bill plus continued difficulties in raising private funds has
soften the opposition.
Access Society bulletin reports on the 6th anniversary of
the first flight of the DC-X, status of RLV funding in the current
bills in Congress, Kistler status, Rotaryfunding, NASA search
for shuttle replacement, and European RLV efforts.
X-33 is over-budget
and behind schedule according to a GAO report. (SAS
Bulletin , Rohrabacher
statement at Reston.com )
X-Planes briefing promised that 2000 will be a busy
year for RLV testing. The X-33
is on (a delayed) schedule for rollout in the 1st quarter of
the year and first flight in the summer. Currently, there are
no major problems with key components (but the engines begin
testing soon and there could always be a surprise there.)
problem seems to have been overcome and they vehicle has been
steady at 75k lbs for sometime. I did not hear what top speed
they would reach but would reach 50miles altitude. 15 flights
are in the test program with a 2 day turnaround to be demonstrated
Slide Show ]
will have 3 vehicles instead of 2. The A1 was intended for ground
testing only but will now be modified for unpowered drop tests
(and renamed the A1-A). These tests will be in early 2000. The
A2 vehicle will have the Fastrac
engine installed in the Spring and after ground firings, will
be launched in the summer. A third vehicle will be available
in late 2000 for flights going to Mach 10.
currently has only 2 flights scheduled. In 2002 it will be taken
up in a shuttle and released for a flight back to the ground.
A mission in 2003 will be a long duration flight, relying on
the solar panels paid for by the Air Force. It will also demonstrate
that it can rendevous and inspect a satellite in LEO (Gee! I
wonder why the Air Force is interested in that capability?)
Dead--]Space.com - Air Force Needs Shape Newest NASA X Rocket
- 'X' marks the future: NASA moves forward with space-planes
- August 24, 1999 * SpaceViews
Article: NASA, Orbital Revise X-34 Testing Schedule * [--Link
Dead--]Space.com - X-34 Test Set, Experimenters Join Project
* [--Link Dead--]Space.com - X-33 Project Races Toward First
Test Flight Next Summer
K-1 is 75% complete
according to a report at Space.com ([--Link Dead--]Money
Tight for Kistler Aerospace-Space.com). The article discusses
Kistler's hunt for funding to complete their development phase.
Nothing said about the Saudi funding
mentioned in the Aviation Week Space Business back in July.
Perhaps it has either fallen through or they decided not to
say more until the deal is finalized. (Recent print issues of
AW&ST have not mentioned their interview with Mueller. Perhaps,
it will be in the next quarterly issue of AW Space Business.)
However, Kistler seems to be proceeding regardless and says
they will be flying 10 months after funding is obtained.
project receives the first Pegasus booster
at Dryden Research Center according to a report at [--Link
Dead--]Launchspace. After various tests the Orbital Science
booster will be attached this fall to the second stage Hyper-X
vehicle. Three separate such combinations will be launched from
a B-52 starting next Spring to investigate hypersonic technologies.
Although the vehicles will not be recovered, the information
learned could lead to applications in future hypersonic reusable
accelerates development of Nevada launch site. An
[--Link Dead--]article in Space. com details Kistler's
plan to use part of a former nuclear test site for its second
launch facility after the one Woomera, Australia. Kistler recently
raised sufficient capital to continue
with its development plans.
Rocket will finish ATV flight tests
but will cease operations by end of year without new funds appearing.
[--Link Dead--]Space.com - Tom Clancy-supported Spaceship
Ready to Resume Flight Tests.
and Boeing RLV strategy in Aviation Week, Aug. 2,
1999 issue. Boeing is involved in both NASA's X-37
and the Air Force's X-40A .
Both are mini-shuttle type lifting bodies. The X-40A is a prototype
vehicle that was dropped from a B-52 in August 1998. The X-37
will be 20% bigger than the X-40A. (The Air Force is also contributing
funds to the X-37.) It will undergo not only atmospheric drop
tests but also will be taken to orbit aboard a shuttlein late
2002 and will fly back to earth on its own.
The X-37 is
part of NASA's FutureX
project and will test 41 different technologies for reusable
launch vehicles. These include the use of hydrogen peroxide
for both main propulsion and control thrusters, new reusable
thermal protection materials, lightweight landing gear, fault-tolerant
systems for autonomous operations, and more.
The X-37 program
will also contribute directly to Boeing's RLV development
plans. Boeing intends an incremental approach to RLVs that first
involves a 2-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) vehicle. This could initially
be an X-37 type vehicle atop an expendable and then later a
reusable first stage. This could deliver about 2500kg payload
to low earth orbit. A follow-on vehicle would be a large TSTO
that delivers 10-12,500kg payload to orbit.
to broadcast an X-Planes briefing on NASA TV at 1
p.m. EDT Aug. 24. Presentations will be given on X-33, X-34,
& X-37 projects. See SpaceCasts
section for online sources for NASA TV. Spacelink
- 99-08-18 X-Vehicle Briefing AUG 24
X-33 History Project provides not only background
information on the project but also an ongoing timeline .
For example, it reports that as of mid-August ,
there were still 50 parts missing from the engines delivered
to Stennis and tests have been delayed.
briefs....NASA continues support of Aerojet's strutjet
rocket based combined cycle: [--Link Dead--]Yahoo - GenCorp
Aerojet to Continue Developing New Propulsion System .
2 issue of Aviation Week (p.36) gives a detailed and interesting
description of the recent short testflights of the Rotary Rocket
ATV. The flights were considered a success but were challenging
for the pilots.
the pilots sit below the center of mass so the motion cues are
reversed, i.e. when the vehicle starts to move left, the bottom
of the vehicle swings right.
rotors are powered by tip rockets fed via centrifugal pumping
thus leading to unstable rotor speed. Faster rotation gives
more pumping and thus even faster rotor speed. A converse instability
occurs when reducing speed. The copilots job is primarily to
control the rotor speed.
in Space News and in a newsgroup message from G. C. Hudson indicate
that Rotary Rocket has enough money to complete a few more test
flights but will have to close shop at end of the year without
new infusions of cash.
5 , 1999
has received clearance from the US State Department,
according to Aviation Week's business , to send various necessary
tools and equipment to its launchpad in Woomera, Australia.
Along with funding problems, this had held up construction there
for over a year. [--Link Dead--]Yahoo - GenCorp Aerojet
to Continue Developing New Propulsion System
design falls into place. Engineers at Lockheed-Martin
have now put together a detailed design for the VentureStar
SSTO with sufficient margins to give them high confidence of
reaching their payload goal. Success of the X-33 suborbital
launcher next year is the only remaining step before they could
begin construction leading to a launch in 2005. Of course, funding
is still the biggest obstacle.
Technology has been
selected by NASA to develop and build the Fastrac engine for
the X-34 program under a $11 million contract.
briefs....Space.com reports on the [--Link
Dead--]X-33 aerospike engine testing at Stennis and on the first
test flight of the Rotary Rocket ATV.
receives Saudi investment. Aviation
Week Space Business Online reports that Kistler will obtain
enough funds from investors in Saudi Arabia to complete its
test program. The Saudis have promised to provide "whatever
it takes" to reach operational status. This should also
release the Taiwanese funds (see below )
that were contingent upon Kistler obtaining sufficient funds
from other sources to reach the $200M or so required to build
and test launch the first vehicles. This should also save them
from the high interest rates required for junk bonds that Kistler
was considering to issue. As soon as the check arrives, construction
will resume on their launch facilities in Woomera, Australia.
flight of Rotary's ATV occurred on Friday
July 22. As planned, it only lifted a few feet off the ground
in the methodical process of testing out the controls and fixing
bugs in the system. (Report from SAS
Update ). Unfortunately, Rotary has also undergone further
layoffs as funding fails to appear. [July 28 - Rotary
Press Release on first ATV flight .][July 29 - Video
now available at RR. Spaceviews
briefs....First complete X-33 aerospike engine
sent to NASA Stennis for tests. See [--Error
[--Time Out--]--] Press Release .
& Boeing sign X-37 agreement.
The government/industry collaboration will split the $173 million
development cost of the reusable, unmanned orbiting vehicle
that will be taken into orbit in 2002 with the Space Shuttle.
It will use its own propulsion system to deorbit and then return
to earth with an autonomously controlled glide landing. The
X-37 is part of NASA's continuing program to develop cheaper
launch systems and will "serve as a test bed for 41 airframe,
propulsion and operations technologies" that support RLV
The X-37 is
a 120% version of the X-40 ,
which in August of 1998 carried out a successful drop test from
a B-52. The X-40 is part of the Air Force's Spaceplane program
and the Air Force will contribute $16 million to the government
share of the X-37. First drop test of the X-37 from a B-52 will
occur in 2001.
Press Release * CNN
- New space plane project takes off - July 15, 1999
Spaceflight Center has awarded $16 million to 13
proposals involved with various reusable launch vehicle technologies.
Composite materials, hydrogen peroxide techonlogy, autonomous
flight control, and other areas important for RLV development
A small Huntsville,
Alabama company called [--Error--]Space
America was awarded a $900,000 contract to develop regenerative
cooling for the Fastrac
rocket engine thrust chamber, which currently uses ablative
cooling. Note that Rotary Rocket recently switched
to the Fastrac.
Press Release , [--Link Dead--]Huntsville
Times article .
plans RLV demonstrator. DaimlerChrysler Aerosapce
(DASA) has begun the Phoenix demonstration program. Phoenix
will test various technologies leading to launch in 2002
of a small single engine sub-orbital test vehicle. Success of
this project would then lead later to a reusable, unmanned launcher
system called Hopper. Equipped with 3 Vulcain Mark 2
engines and sled launched, Hopper will go into low earth orbit
and release a separate expendable upper stage that can place
7 ton satellites into LEO or 5 tons in geostationary orbit.
It will return to earth with a glide landing. The Hopper will
weigh 400 tons at take-off and is 40m long and 22m wingspan.
[--Link Dead--]SpaceDaily article
Press Release June 99 ]
briefs....A Yahoo News article discusses European
views on RLVs: Rocket
Designers Look To The Next Generation .
The second X-38
vehicle successfully completed
its second flight test on July 9. It was dropped from the highest
altitude yet - 31,500ft. The test verified new maneuvers and
improvements in the drogue chute. More tests of ever greater
complexity and altitude will continue over the coming years
leading up to a release from a space shuttle in 2001. See SpaceViews
, [--Link Dead--]Spacedaily articles.
briefs....Technology Review gives a short report
on RLV's at [--Link Dead--]July/Aug
99: Reusable Rockets Get Ready ...
briefs....A RealMedia streamed
video of the recent X-34 captive carry test is available
at the Houston
Chronicle space news page. The piece also includes a background
video on the X-34 program....Forbes magazine (July 5) has an
article about Rotary Rocket and other RLV startups - Earth
to Gary . Includes also a sidebar on space
briefs....See the Antelope Valley Press article for
the latest on Rotary: AV
Press: Rotary Rocket lands $1 billion in contracts ... X-34
captive test flight ended early after some vibrations seen on
a panel on the L-1011 but otherwise no major problems: CNN
- NASA's rocket-plane takes first test ride - June 29, 1999 ....
captive flight tests begin. The first flight test
of the X-34 reusable rocket plane will take place this week.
The vehicle will remain attached to its L-1011 mother ship.
The aerodynamics of the configuration will be studied as well
as various tests of the modifications made for the X-34 attachment.
press release .
problems delay project by 6 months.
is the developmental program of the Crew Rescue Vehicle for
the International Space Station. The program is being carried
out by Johnson Space Center. The CRV will use a small rocket
to drop out of orbit and after a period of free fall will glide
to a landing with a parafoil. Several drop tests from a B-52
of sub-scale versions have been carried out. In 2001 a drop
test in orbit from
the Shuttle is planned leading to an operational system by 2003.
However, various problems with electrical and parachute systems
have delayed drop tests this summer that may in turn delay the
space tests. The upcoming flights are from a higher altitude
than previous tests and will involve using the flight control
surfaces. See article in Antelope
Valley Press June 23, 1999 .
makes a turn for the better.In
release, Rotary clarified their situation a bit. They have
decided to defer development of the Rocketjet main engine
and instead use a derivative of the Fastrac engine developed
by NASA for the X-34
project. (See the Fastrac
links). This engine is reusable but for only a limited number
of times due to the use of an ablatively cooled nozzle. However,
in a newsgroup message, Gary Hudson said the derived from
phrase in the PR should be emphasized. This could mean that
Rotary will make some modifications to extend the lifetime of
the engine. A cluster of Fastracs will be used to achieve the
and technicians involved with the RocketJet have been laid off
although the company hopes to return to development of the engine
later if possible. In the meantime, there is enough funds to
continue with the ATV tests. The company succeeded in a ground
test and will soon try taking the vehicle a short distance above
news on the Rotary business situation. The same press release
says that they now have over 900 million dollars of contracts
for launches during the first ten years of operation. While
they won't see much of this money until the spacecraft are in
orbit, this will certainly help in convincing investors of the
companies viability. SpaceViews
article June 24,1999 .
User's Guide at the Kistler
Aerospace web site. It gives the details for satellite builders
on how to adapt their spacecraft to the Kistler K-1 launcher.
reusable engine technology shows
there was little new rocket engine technology development of
any sort in the USA for about 25 years after the Space Suttle
Main Engine, there seems to be a spurt of progress on several