News

 

DATE=  11/3/97

TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT

NUMBER=5-37973

TITLE=X-33 PROGRESS

BYLINE=DAVID MCALARY

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT: 



INTRO:   THE REPLACEMENT FOR THE U-S SPACE SHUTTLE HAS CLEARED A 

MAJOR DESIGN HURDLE, AND THE AEROSPACE FIRM DESIGNING IT IS 

PREPARING TO BUILD A SMALL-SCALE PROTOTYPE FOR FLIGHT TESTING.  

V-O-A SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT DAVID MCALARY BRINGS US UP TO DATE ON

THE PROGRESS OF THE X-33.



TEXT:     U-S GOVERNMENT AND INDUSTRY REPRESENTATIVES, MEETING AT

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE IN CALIFORNIA, APPROVED THE FINAL DESIGN 

OF THE X-33 ON FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31ST.  THE X-33 IS THE MINIATURE 

FLYING WEDGE THAT IS THE MODEL FOR A LARGER SPACECRAFT EXPECTED 

TO SUPPLANT THE SPACE SHUTTLE EARLY IN THE NEXT CENTURY.



ACCORDING TO THE X-33 PROJECT MANAGER -- CLEON LACEFIELD OF THE 

LOCKHEED MARTIN COMPANY -- THE DESIGN REVIEW BY 600 PEOPLE FROM 

HIS FIRM, FROM THE U-S SPACE AGENCY, NASA, AND FROM THE AIR FORCE

GAVE THE PROGRAM A VOTE OF CONFIDENCE.



                       // LACEFIELD ACT //



         THE CRITICAL DESIGN REVIEW COVERED THE ENTIRE VEHICLE 

         SYSTEMS FOR THE PROGRAM.  SO WE ARE VERY, VERY PLEASED 

         THAT WE HAVE COMPLETED THIS MAJOR MILESTONE AND WE ARE 

         READY TO [MAKE THE] TRANSITION INTO THE FABRICATION AND 

         ASSEMBLY PHASE OF THE PROGRAM.



                          // END ACT //



WITH A WINGLESS, WEDGE-SHAPED BODY, THE LOCKHEED MARTIN X-33 

WOULD TAKE OFF LIKE A ROCKET AND RETURN TO EARTH LIKE AN 

AIRPLANE.  THE FULL-SIZED VERSION, CALLED VENTURESTAR, WOULD 

WEIGH LESS THAN THE SPACE SHUTTLE BECAUSE OF LIGHTER COMPOSITE 

MATERIALS, SO IT WOULD NOT NEED THE HUGE BOOSTER ROCKETS THAT 

ACCOMPANY THE SHUTTLE AT LAUNCH.  IT WOULD ALSO REQUIRE ONLY A 

FEW DAYS PREPARATION BY SMALL GROUND CREWS BEFORE TAKING OFF 

AGAIN.  IN CONTRAST, THE SPACE SHUTTLE NEEDS LARGE MAINTENANCE 

TEAMS AND MONTHS TO GET READY, SHARPLY LIMITING THE NUMBER OF 

ANNUAL FLIGHTS.



THE CONCEPT DIFFERS FROM THE SHUTTLE IN ANOTHER WAY, TOO.  IT 

WILL  NOT  HAVE A CREW -- AT LEAST  NOT  AT FIRST.  IT IS CHEAPER

TO CARRY PAYLOADS WITHOUT PEOPLE, AND THE TECHNOLOGY EXISTS TO 

MAKE THE CRAFT FULLY AUTOMATIC.



BECAUSE OF THESE DIFFERENCES, VENTURESTAR IS EXPECTED TO LOWER 

THE COST OF LAUNCHING PAYLOADS BY 90 PERCENT AND HELP PROPEL THE 

UNITED STATES INTO THE COMMERCIAL LAUNCH BUSINESS, NOW DOMINATED 

BY THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY'S ARIANE ROCKET.



LOCKHEED MARTIN WILL OPERATE THE NEW CRAFT FOR PROFIT, IN LINE 

WITH NASA'S GOAL OF TURNING THIS SECTOR OF SPACEFLIGHT OVER TO 

PRIVATE INDUSTRY.  NASA IS DONATING ONE-BILLION DOLLARS TOWARD 

ITS DEVELOPMENT -- ABOUT ONE-FOURTH THE DEVELOPMENT COST -- BUT 

AFTER THE X-33 PHASE IS OVER, THE VENTURESTAR PROGRAM WILL BE 

FULLY FINANCED BY THE AEROSPACE COMPANY.



AN OFFICIAL WITH THE LOCKHEED MARTIN ASSEMBLY FACILITY ON 

PALMDALE, CALIFORNIA -- JERRY RISING -- SAYS NASA, NOT 

SURPRISINGLY, WILL BE VENTURESTAR'S FIRST CUSTOMER.  ITS PRIMARY 

MISSION WILL BE TO CARRY PAYLOADS TO THE PLANNED INTERNATIONAL 

SPACE STATION.  BUT MR. RISING FORESEES SIGNIFICANT DEMAND FROM 

THE PRIVATE SECTOR.



                        // RISING ACT //



         OUR INITIAL MARKETING ANALYSIS IS SHOWING THAT THERE IS 

         MUCH MORE BUSINESS AVAILABLE OUTSIDE OF THE NASA SECTOR.

         BASICALLY, LAUNCHING COMMERCIAL PAYLOADS FOR OTHER 

         CUSTOMERS COULD AMOUNT TO AS MUCH AS 50 PERCENT OF THE 

         BUSINESS BASE OF THE VEHICLE.  RIGHT NOW, WITHOUT BEING 

         REALLY FAR INTO THE ANALYSIS, WE SEE ABOUT A 50-50 SPLIT

         BETWEEN NASA BUSINESS IN FLYING TO SPACE STATION AND 

         POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL BUSINESS.



                          // END ACT //



LOCKHEED MARTIN OFFICIALS SAY THEY HOPE TO BEGIN MAKING A PROFIT 

FROM VENTURESTAR WITHIN FIVE YEARS AFTER IT BEGINS OPERATIONS IN 

2004.



THE NEW CRAFT WILL  NOT  REPLACE THE SPACE SHUTTLE IMMEDIATELY 

UPON ENTERING SERVICE.  THE NASA OFFICIAL OVERSEEING THE X-33 

PROGRAM -- GENE AUSTIN -- SAYS THE TWO CRAFT WILL FLY 

CONCURRENTLY FOR A WHILE.



                        // AUSTIN ACT //



         WE EXPECT A PERIOD OF TIME TO HAVE THE SHUTTLE AND THE 

         VENTURESTAR BOTH FLYING.  THAT IS ESTIMATED TO BE AROUND

         TWO YEARS.  IT COULD BE DIFFERENT THAN THAT, BUT THAT'S 

         THE ROUGH PLANNING ESTIMATE THAT WE HAVE RIGHT NOW.



                          // END ACT //



IN THE MEANTIME, SMALL-SCALE X-33 DEMONSTRATION VERSIONS ARE TO 

BE BUILT NEXT YEAR.  FIFTEEN FLIGHT X-33 TESTS ARE SCHEDULED FOR 

THE SECOND HALF OF 1999, REACHING ALTITUDES OF NEARLY 

100-KILOMETERS AT UP TO 13-AND-A-HALF TIMES THE SPEED OF SOUND.  

THE FULL-SCALE VENTURESTAR, WHICH WILL BEGIN TESTING BY 2002, 

WILL REACH NEAR-EARTH ORBITS SIMILAR TO THAT OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE

AT 25 TIMES THE SPEED OF SOUND.  (SIGNED)



NEB/DEM/RRM



03-Nov-97 3:25 PM EST (2025 UTC)

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Source: Voice of America

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