X-33 Stays Cool In Early Development Stage
News story originally written on February 5, 1999
Engineers have finished testing the thermal shields for the X-33, a
prototype of a single-stage-to-orbit reusable launch vehicle. The thermal
shields passed a series of intensive tests that included time in a
high-speed, high temperature wind tunnel and actual flights strapped to
the bottom of an F-15.
"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," said Dan Dumbacher, NASA X-33 deputy program manager.
The thermal shields will protect the X-33 from extreme temperatures
encountered during atmospheric re-entry. The panels are metalic and are
easy to maintain. When used over insulating material, they will protect
the vehicle from temperatures near 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
The X-33 is a half-scale technology demonstrator of a new reusable launch
vehicle which will replace the space shuttle. The new
single-stage-to-orbit RLV has been named the VentureStar. Officials hope
that the VentureStar will reduce the cost of space travel from $10,000 per
pound to $1,000 per pound.
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