NASA has eliminated funding for the X-38 prototype International Space Station crew return vehicle (CRV) from its 2003 budget request as it studies requirements for a more-capable crew transportation vehicle.

Money remains for atmospheric testing, but an orbital flight from the Space Shuttle in 2004-5 is no longer funded. Aerojet delivered the de-orbit propulsion stage for the X-38 in January.

Work on the Boeing X-37 re-usable spaceplane technology demonstrator will also be limited to atmospheric testing, NASA says, with funding for a Shuttle flight in 2004 to be withdrawn.

NASA associate administrator for aerospace technology Sam Venneri says the orbit-to-earth X-38 CRV has too narrow a mission focus. Studies of a two-way crew transport vehicle capable of more missions will be completed in May or June under the Space Launch Initiative. The X-37 could still fly if it proves relevant to the development of a second-generation re-usable launch vehicle, he says.

Source: Flight International