ROCKWELL AND Northrop Grumman have revealed a new baseline design for the X-33 advanced-technology single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) half-scale demonstrator launch vehicle. The 30m-long, 22,680kg launcher resembles the company's existing Space Shuttle orbiter, but incorporates the expected state-of-the-art advanced technologies, including a new breed of engines.

"Rockwell intends to be bold in pushing the technology, but prudent in packaging that technology in a known class of aerodynamic configuration and launch/flight modes," says Charles Scottoline, Rockwell X-33 programme manager.

The company will build on its Shuttle experience, "...taking what works and applying lessons learned and new technologies to drive operational costs down", he says, adding that the Shuttle " fundamentally a sound design".

Rockwell, Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas have until August to complete concept definition, design and a business plan under a $24 million NASA Phase 1 contract, which gives each company $8 million. The companies are providing additional funds. Phase 2 is planned to lead to a first demonstrator flight in 1999.

Source: Flight International