Lockheed Martin and NASA are negotiating the restructuring of the X-33 technology demonstrator programme which may result in both parties having to commit more funds to the troubled suborbital reusable launch vehicle prototype.

Although the recent test performance of the X-33's aerospike engines has been satisfactory, other technical problems have dogged the project, especially those experienced with the craft's composite propellant tanks.

It has been decided to replace the X-33's lightweight composite liquid hydrogen tank with one made of heavier aluminium, although a formal announcement is not expected until August. The liquid hydrogen tank was ruptured during a pressure test carried out last year.

The maiden flight of the X-33 from Edwards AFB, California, is not expected until 2002, as a result of the tank change.

Source: Flight International