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X-33 Shuttle Replacement

(Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Program)

July 2, 1996: Vice President Albert Gore announced today that the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has been selected to build and fly the X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator. McDonnell-Douglas and Rockwell International were the two primary competitors for the X-33. All three teams have been involved in a competitive design and technology demonstration phase since the spring of 1995.

The X-33 is a 1/2 scale prototype of a rocket based Single State to Orbit (SSTO) Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). The goal of the X-33 program is to reduce the business and technical risks by the end of the decade such that private industry can build and operate the next generation reusable launch vehicle. The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works X-33 concept uses a lifting body shape coupled with an aerospike rocket engine concept to propel the vehicle to over Mach 15. The X-33 will simulate the ascent and re-entry environments of the full-scale RLV. The X-33 is scheduled to complete its first flight by March of 1999. Edwards Air Force Base in California will be the launch site for the X-33.

NASA has issued a Cooperative Agreement to Lockheed-Martin worth approximately $1 billion over 42 months to build and fly the X-33. The cooperative agreement is a partnership mechanism between the Government and Industry which allows both parties to contribute resources towards a common goal - low cost space access in this case. No profit is made by Industry. Lockheed-Martin is cost sharing over $200 million on the X-33 program.

The selected team consists of Lockheed Martin (lead by the Skunk Works in Palmdale, CA, Rocketdyne (Engines), Rohr (Thermal Protection Systems), Allied Signal (Subsystems), and Sverdrup (Ground Support Equipment), and various NASA and DoD laboratories.

X-33 Side View

X-33 Images

X-33 specifications. 111 Kb
X-33 at the Space Station. 25 Kb
X-33 over the Earth. 30 Kb
X-33 ready for launch. 14 Kb
X-33 launching a satellite. 12 Kb

As of March 1, 2001, the x-33 project as well as the x-34 project were discontinued by NASA. See the following

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Updated: March 12, 2004