McDonnell Douglas Aerospace

DELTA CLIPPER TEST PROGRAM OFF TO FLYING START

LAS CRUCES, N.M., June 20, 1994 -- Flight tests of the Delta Clipper- Experimental (DC-X) resumed today as the single-stage vehicle lifted off the flight stand here at White Sands Missile Range. The 8:42 a.m. MDT liftoff began the experimental flight vehicle's fourth consecutive successful flight.

DC-X is being developed by McDonnell Douglas for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) Single Stage Rocket Technology Program to prove the practicality, reliability, operability and cost efficiency of a reusable, single-stage-to-orbit flight vehicle. Flight tests were halted late last year when funds were exhausted. In April of this year, the NASA and the Advanced Research Projects Agency provided funds to complete testing in 1994.

The DC-X reached an altitude of 1,500 feet, and then followed a curved ascent to a height of 2,600 feet, traveling laterally 1,050 feet from the take-off point. Then flight controls commanded the DC-X to reverse its direction of flight and climb to an altitude of 2,850 feet. Once over its landing pad the vehicle descended vertically and touched down 136 seconds after liftoff. During this flight profile, the vehicle went through an angle of attack range of zero to 70 degrees.

"We're extremely pleased to be back in the air again. Today's flight further expands the DC-X's flight envelope," said Paul Klevatt, McDonnell Douglas program manager. "The flight was the fourth in a series of sub-orbital flights designed to demonstrate vertical takeoff and landing, subsonic maneuverability," he added.

After completion of the planned flight tests series this summer, the DC-X will be turned over to NASA. NASA is planning to upgrade systems and subsytems, incorporating advanced technologies for reflight of the vehicle in 1996.

The McDonnell Douglas team comprises an international group of aerospace companies: Douglas Aircraft Co., Long Beach, Calif.; McDonnell Douglas Aerospace at Huntington Beach, Calif., St. Louis, and Kennedy Space Center; Aerojet Propulsion Division, Sacramento, Calif.; Allied Signal Aerospace Co., Torrance, Calif.; Chicago Bridge and Iron Services, Inc., Oak Brook, Ill.; Deutsche Aerospace, Munich, Germany; General Connector, San Fernando, Calif.; Harris Corp., Rockledge, Fla.; Honeywell, Clearwater, Fla.; Integrated Systems, Santa Clara, Calif.; Martin Marietta, Denver, Colo.; New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M.; Pratt & Whitney Government Engines and Space Division, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Process Fabrication, Inc., Santa Fe Springs, Calif.; Scaled Composites, Mojave, Calif.; and SpaceGuild, San Carlos, Calif.

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M., June 27, 1994

Today at 8:37 a.m. MDT the Delta Clipper Experimental (DC-X) single-stage launch vehicle executed a safe landing on the desert floor, following an anomaly which occurred at takeoff.

An explosion of unknown origin took place at engine startup with subsequent damage to the DC-X's graphite fiber aeroshell. The DC-X, however, continued through its flight sequence with its avionics and engine systems performing normally, and liftoff was according to expectations.

"We were 17 seconds into the initial launch and flight mode when Pete Conrad, DC-X flight manager, initiated the vehicle's emergency autoland sequence and it descended according to plan," said Paul Klevatt, McDonnell Douglas' DC-X program director. Total flight time from start of engines to landing was 78 seconds. "We are pleased the vehicle returned essentially intact so that it can be repaired and flown again," Klevatt added.

Following the test flight, Lt. Col. Jess Sponable, Single Stage Rocket Technology program manager for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) stated, "This anomaly resulted in successful demonstrations of several important firsts: executing the autoland sequence demonstrating an 'aircraft-like' abort mode; landing on the gypsum, demonstrating the ability to land future SSTO vehicles virtually anywhere; and demonstrating the system's toughness and robustness, since the DC-X continued to fly despite the aeroshell damage." An anomaly investigation team has been formed and will report its findings and recommendations to Lt. Col. Sponable as soon as all data has been analyzed.

DC-X is being developed by McDonnell Douglas for the BMDO Single Stage Rocket Technology Program to prove the practicality, reliability, operability and cost efficiency of a reusable, single-stage-to-orbit flight vehicle.

WHITE SANDS, N.M., May 16, 1995

The Delta Clipper Experimental launch vehicle (DC-X) climbed into the skies over the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range at 9:40.02 MDT today to resume a rigorous series of flight tests.

The single-stage, vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing vehicle reached an altitude of 4,350 feet flying at a constant angle. During the ascent, the DC-X traveled 1,150 feet from the flight stand. The vehicle traveled laterally until it was positioned over its landing pad located 350 feet from the initial flight stand. The DC-X touched down approximately 123.6 seconds after liftoff.

"Today's flight and subsequent flights are a continuation of those that were accomplished in 1993 and 1994 and are an expansion of the flight envelope similar to that done for new aircraft," said Dave Schweikle, director of McDonnell Douglas' DC-X program. "The results of the technical demonstration will provide valuable aerodynamic data, launch vehicle rotation dynamics, and control system performance."

Plans call for up to three additional flight tests this year. The DC-X will fly high-angle-of-attack maneuvers with sweeps of up to 180 degrees. These maneuvers will help to validate the computational fluid dynamics, control system dynamics, and wind tunnel models used to design single-stage-to-orbit vehicles.

The tests will contribute more data about the flight environment and flight characteristics of single-stage vehicles. The series will also continue to provide data on the reusable launch vehicle's quick turn-around operations.

Under the U.S. Air Force contract, McDonnell Douglas has resumed flight tests almost a year after an explosion damaged the experimental vehicle.

During the fifth flight test last June, an external detonation of fuel cloud vapors caused by the ground support equipment damaged the DC-X. Despite a vertical tear in the vehicle's aeroshell during takeoff, the 42-foot-high DC-X successfully executed a controlled emergency landing on the desert floor.

McDonnell Douglas originally developed the experimental vehicle for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization with the support of the Air Force Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and demonstrated its subsonic maneuverability and airplane-like operability and maintainability in suborbital flight tests on Aug. 18, Sept. 11, and Sept. 30 in 1993, and again on June 20 and 27 last year.

Following the conclusion of this year's flight tests, McDonnell Douglas will integrate key advanced technology components into the experimental vehicle under a series of cooperative research agreements awarded by NASA. The upgraded vehicle will be called the DC-XA, and flight tests are scheduled to resume in 1996. Phillips Laboratory will act as NASA's deputy for Flight Test and Operations, managing the final DC-XA flights in 1996.

White Sands, NM, June 12, 1995

The Delta Clipper Experimental launch vehicle (DC-X) continued to expand its limits today during its seventh flight test which began at 8:38 a.m. at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range.

The single-stage, vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing rocket reached an altitude of 5,700 feet, bettering the 4,350 feet mark set during the last flight on May 16. During ascent maneuvering the McDonnell Douglas-built DC-X's angle of attack swept from zero to 70 degrees to gather data on aerodynamics and flight controls.

The DC-X traveled 1,950 feet down range and flew sideways at 110 feet per second back to the landing site during the flight test. The vehicle descended base first at 200 feet per second compared to the 145-feet-per-second rate of the earlier flight. Total flight time was 2 minutes and 12 seconds.

"We are taking an incremental approach to expanding the limits of the DC-X in preparation for the rotation maneuver in the next fight," said Dave Schweikle, director of McDonnell Douglas' DC-X program. "Each successive flight further demonstrates the feasibility of a reusable rocket that has aircraft-like operabiity and maintainability," he added. Post flight activities will provide information for rapid turnaround between flights of a reusable launch vehicle.

A critical technology demonstration during flight was the first use of four gaseous oxygen-hydrogen thrusters. These reaction control thrusters demonstrated the ability to further control the vehicle, according to Pete Conrad, McDonnell Douglas' DC-X flight manager. In addition the test further demonstrated other flight controls, including engine throttling and use of flaps located on the sides of the vehicle.

Test plans call for up to two additional flights this year. The flight tests will build up to high-angle-of-attack maneuvers with sweeps of up to 180 degrees to simulate the rotation maneuver that a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle would execute for a vertical landing.

The DC-X, built by McDonnel Douglas in Huntington Beach, California, is managed by the U.S. Air Force Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Flight test support is provided by the Air Force's Space and Missile Center Test and Evaluation Directorate in support of the NASA Reusable Launch Vehicle program.

At the conclusion of this year's flight tests, McDonnell Douglas will integrate key advanced technology components into the experimental vehicle under a series of cooperative agreements awarded by NASA.

Flight tests are scheduled to resume in 1996; the vehicle will be called the DC-XA.

The above information was obtained from a news release from McDonnell Douglas.

White Sands, NM, July 7, 1995

The Delta Clipper Experimental Demonstrates Re-Entry Maneuver.

The Delta Clipper-Experimental launch vehicle (DC-X) has successfully completed its eighth flight while performing the critical rotation maneuver that a vertical-landing rocket would execute after re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

After climbing to 8,200 feet at a maximum ascent rate of 240 feet per second today, the McDonnell Douglas-built experimental rocket set up for the maneuver by pointing its nose 10 degrees below the horizon, and then it rotated 138 degrees to a base-first flight attitude. The DC-X then landed base first using its four Pratt & Whitney RL-10 engines as brakes. 'Today, the DC-X demonstrated the maneuver required by a full-scale vertical landing reusable launch vehicle using propulsion control,' said Save Schweikle, director of McDonnell Douglas' DC-X program. 'The incremental expansion of the DC-X flight envelope over the previous flights has been in preparation for this critical maneuver,' he explained. The test flight for the DC-X, a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing rocket, began at 7:02 a.m. MDT at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range. Total flight time was two minutes and four seconds.

The maximum altitude of today's flight was 8,200 feet, which exceeded the 5,700 feet flown during the last flight on June 12. During the assent, the DC-X traveled 2,100 feet down range from the flight pad and performed the 138 degree rotation maneuver as it returned toward the landing site. The DC-X descended base first at 165 feet per second from an altitude of about 7,000 feet, using its engines to brake for a landing.

Each flight continues to demonstrate the feasibility of a reusable rocket which has aircraft-like operability and maintainability. Similar to the June 12 test, post-flight activities will provide information for rapid turnaround between flights for a reusable launch vehicle.

The DC-X, built by McDonnell Douglas in Huntington Beach, CA, is managed by the U.S. Air Force Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico. Flight test support is provided by the Air Force Space and Missile Center, Test and Evaluation Directorate.

When this year's flight test program ends, McDonnell Douglas will integrate key advanced technology components into the experimental vehicle under a series of cooperative agreements awarded by NASA. Flight tests are scheduled to resume in 1996; the vehicle will then be call DC-XA.

The above information was obtained from a news release from McDonnell Douglas.