Air Force Phillips Laboratory
Phillips Laboratory
Press Release #95-38
May 16, 1995

Delta Clipper Begins Flight Tests Today

16 May 1995
CONTACT: Connie Rankin
PHONE: 505-846-1911

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. -- Today at 9:40 a.m., Air Force Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., began a series of flight tests of the DC-X (Delta Clipper Experimental) single stage rocket at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The DC-X took-off climbing at a constant 15 degree angle of attack to an altitude of 4,350 feet, and 1,150 feet downrange from the flight stand. It was successful in demonstrating a high angle of attack maneuver, a global positioning system guided navigation solution, differtial throttling of the main engines, and aircraft-like operations of a single stage rocket.

The DC-X program is administered by Air Force Phillips Laboratory in support of the NASA reuseable launch vehicle program.

After stabilizing in a vertical attitude, the DC-X traveled laterally back towards the landing pad about 8OO feet, remaining at 4,350 feet attitude. The DC-X was programmed to slightly overfly the landing pad, stabilize and correct itself during the descent to land on the pad after about two minutes and 5 seconds of flight.

"The DC-X is designed both to take off and land in a vertical attitude, " said Lt. Col. Jess Sponable, program manager of the Advanced Spacelift Technology Program here. "Its purpose is to test the feasibility of a vertical landing liquid oxygen and hydrogen rocket operated with the same simplicity as conventional aircraft."

The program originated in the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization with the support of Phillips Laboratory. As the prime contractor, McDonnell Douglas Aerospace from Huntington Beach, Calif., developed, built and flight-tested a DC-X, single stage rocket technology vehicle.

At the last flight test on June 27, 1994, during the take-off sequence, the hydrogen cloud outside the vehicle detonated and ripped a 15- by 4-foot hole in the outer skin of the vehicle. In spite of the damage, the DC-X lifted off and began its pre-programmed flight profile," said Lt. Col. Sponable. After take off, the crew issued the "autoland" command 17.7 seconds into the flight. This resulted in the first successful emergency landing of a rocket powered vehicle on the desert floor.

After this series of fight tests, the DC-X will be turned over to NASA for modification into the DC-XA configuration. The DC-XA will incorporate many new advanced technologies for demonstrating the feasibility of single stage to orbit flight. The Phillips Laboratory will act as NASA's Deputy for Flight Test and Operations, managing the final DC-XA flight tests in mid 1996.

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