THE X-33 SINGLE-stage-to-orbit re-usable launch vehicle (RLV) contractor will be selected by NASA before the end of June.

One of three industry teams selected in 1995 to define concepts for an RLV to replace the Space Shuttle will be chosen to design, manufacture and flight-test an X-33 RLV demonstrator. Production of a small fleet of full-scale RLVs will begin in 1999. They will be used for Space Station resupply missions and satellite deployment.

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is leading one team, which includes Rocketdyne (linear aerospike rocket), Rohr (thermal-protection system), AlliedSignal (avionics), Sverdrup (operations) and Alliant Techsystems (liquid-hydrogen tank).

Lockheed Martin has dubbed its RLV bid the "VentureStar", and the company submitted its formal proposal on 13 May for X-33 prototype fabrication.

The two rival teams are McDonnell Douglas (MDC)/Boeing and Rockwell International. The MDC-led team envisions a vertical-launch/vertical-landing vehicle derived from the Delta Clipper-Experimental (DC-X) technology demonstrator developed for the US Department of Defense. Rockwell is offering for competition a vertical-launch/horizontal-landing wing body.

Source: Flight International