Boeing has completed two-thirds of the design work on the X-37 Space Manoeuvre Vehicle (SMV). Assembly of the first vehicle is due later this year.

Aerodynamic and aeroheating wind tunnel testing is 93% complete. Arcjet testing of the X-37's thermal protection system has confirmed predictions, while the approach and landing avionics and software are being validated by the X-40A 85% subscale model.

The first unpowered drop test of a fully-fledged X-37 from a B-52 is set for next year, while an initial orbital test flight is due in 2004, either on a Space Shuttle or on an expendable launch vehicle.

Aerojet has been awarded a $10.4 million contract from the US Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate to develop a non-toxic kerosene/ hydrogen peroxide Advanced Reusable Rocket Engine to power an operational version of the Space Manoeuvre Vehicle (SMV). The contract could be worth $29 million over the next four years.

The first X-37 SMV will be powered by a Boeing Rocketdyne AR2/3 engine using similar propellants.

Source: Flight International