NASA HAS PICKED Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas and Rockwell International to compete to build the X-33 re-useable launch-vehicle demonstrator, which could eventually lead to a Space Shuttle replacement.

It also announced selection of Orbital Sciences to build and fly the smaller companion X-34 booster-demonstrator, beginning late in 1997. The ultimate aim is to move towards a new operational Space Shuttle system by 2010.

Lockheed Advanced Development, McDonnell Douglas Aerospace and Rockwell's Space Systems unit will undertake 15-month X-33 concept-definition and design studies. McDonnell Douglas is teamed with Boeing and Lockheed's partners include Rocketdyne, Rohr and merger partner Martin Marietta.

The Phase I research and development is co-funded by NASA and the three contractors, with NASA's share totaling $24 million. Phase II, running through to the end of the decade, would include design, fabrication and flight demonstration of the winning X-33 design. Phase III would involve production of operational systems.

NASA plans to spend $70 million by the end of fiscal year 1999 on the jointly funded X-34 project. The Marshall Space Flight Center is responsible for the X-33 and X-34 projects.

Source: Flight International