Whatever happened to…NASA’s X-34?

It ended up in a hangar covered in bird crap, that’s what. A remnant of an unhappy time in NASA’s recent history, the Orbital Sciences-built X-34 was photographed by Ashley Wallace in storage at Edwards AFB in California. The X-34 was built as a flying testbed to demonstrate technology for future low-cost reusable launch vehicles.

(Picture by Ashley Wallace, from airliners.net)

The unmanned X-34 was intended to be air launched from Orbital’s Lockheed L-1011 mothership and accelerated to Mach 8 by a NASA-built oxygen/kerosene rocket engine. The vehicle was designed to land on a runway and fly up to 25 times to test composite structures, resuable propellant tanks and thermal protection systems, and autonomous flight operations.

Orbital got as far as captive-carry tests on the L-1011 before the X-34 was cancelled in 2001, along with Lockheed Martin’s mightily ambitious X-33 single-stage-to-orbit RLV technology demonstrator (video). Spiralling costs and changes in NASA’s RLV thinking were blamed. Two completed X-34s and parts for the third were transferred to the US Air Force.


2 Responses to Whatever happened to…NASA’s X-34?

  1. kathleen 20 February, 2008 at 8:46 pm #

    A hangar covered in bird dropping is quite dangerous. Humans coming into contact with bird droppings, or simply breathing in spores from bird droppings laying around can lead to over 60 diseases. Some of these diseases are fatal. The bird droppings can also dangerously corrode the aircraft and the building that is housing it. Many humane and environmentally safe products are available to ward off birds from roosting in areas such as aircraft hangars, and leaving their dangerous droppings behind.


  2. The Woracle 20 February, 2008 at 11:49 pm #

    That commercial message was brought to you by Bird-X.

    Makes me wonder if they have their google alerts set for “bird crap” and its variations!

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