X-33 was the sub-scale prototype version of the Single Stage to Orbit Venture
Star. It was wedge shaped X-33. It was developed jointly
between NASA and Lockheed Martin Skunk Works of Palmdale, California. X-33
was cancelled in 2001.
The X-33 was designed to take off vertically like
a rocket, reaching an altitude of up to 60 miles and speeds faster than Mach 13
(13 times the speed of sound), and landing horizontally like an airplane. The
X-33 was to be launched at Edwards Air Force Base, Edwards, California.
The X-33 design was chosen in the X-33
competion in 1986. The competitors were the DC-X Vertical take-off and Vertical
landing vehicle and Rockwell X-33. Lockheed Martin's version won the competion.
In hindsight, perhaps two competing vehicles should have been built.
J-2S Linear Aerospikes
The X-33s was to use:
: The novel, highly efficient
design had undergone numerous component-level tests. The first aerospike
test engine had completed 14 planned hot fire tests. It accumulated more
than 1,460 seconds of total operating time, including a demonstration of the
ability to vary the thrust from top to bottom that will be used to steer the
X-33. This engine was developed at a fraction of the cost of normal standard
Thermal Protection System (TPS) certification:
The rugged, metallic thermal-protection system panels designed for the X-33 had
passed an intensive test series that included sessions in high-speed,
high-temperature tests in laboratories, wind tunnels and NASA research aircraft
to duplicate flight conditions. Industry partner BF Goodrich had delivered more
than 95 percent of the X-33's TPS panels. NASA expected the panels could reduce
maintenance time and costs associated with more fragile thermal tile systems.
The panels also made up the lower surfaces of the rocket plane's aerodynamic
structural shell, resulting in significant weight savings over traditional
thermal systems while being more durable and waterproof.
Lightweight graphite composite trusses and supports that serve as the backbone
of the X-33's aeroshell have been assembled. They also support the three large
propellant tanks that comprise most of its interior. The X-33 is pioneering
extensive use of composite materials for RLVs.
The X-33 was based on a lifting body
shape. The lightweight components and fuel tanks were built to conform to
the vehicle's outer shape.
Construction of the X-33 was more than 85 percent complete, with the liquid
oxygen tank, avionics bay, flight umbilicals, reaction control system thruster
controller and landing gear installed. However, the X-33 was cancelled in 2001.
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