The final design of the Orbital Sciences (OSC) X-34, the next technology demonstrator in NASA's Reusable Launch Vehicle programme, has been frozen in preparation for its first flight in 1998.

The re-usable, suborbital vehicle will be flown to Mach 8 at an altitude of 80km. It will be launched up to 25 times in a 12-month period from OSC's Lockheed L-1011, flying from White Sands, New Mexico, and from Florida.

It will be used to demonstrate flights in rain and fog and autonomous landings with 20kt (37km/h) crosswinds. It will be powered by a 55kN (12,350lb)-thrust, liquid-oxygen/kerosene Fastrac engine.

The X-34 will have composite airframe and propellant-tank structures, thermal-protection systems and low-cost avionics, incorporating global-positioning and inertial-navigation systems.

The vehicle bridges the gap between the McDonnell Douglas DC-XA Clipper Graham, which was last flown in 1996, and the Lockheed Martin X-33 Mach 15 suborbital demonstrator, which is scheduled for flights to take place in 1999.


Source: Flight International