NASA WILL INVEST $60 million and solicit new proposals from industry and Government in a restructured X-34 technology-demonstration launcher programme. The agency is aiming for a first test flight in 1998.

The move follows the collapse of the original Rockwell-Orbital Sciences design-concept study, because the companies said that it lacked commercial viability in its other perceived role as a small satellite-launcher (Flight International, 14-20 February). The priority of the new X-34 programme will be "technology-demonstration flights, not tied to potential commercial applications," says Gary Payton, director of the agency's re-useable-launch-vehicle programme.

The new programme will bridge the gap between planned flight tests of the McDonnell Douglas DC-XA single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) technology-demonstration vehicle and projected tests of the larger X-33 SSTO vehicle in 1999 (Flight International, 13-19 March).

Source: Flight International