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Fact Sheet #6

The Policy Origins of the X-33

Part VI: The DC-XA

December 22, 1999

This is the sixth of a continuing series of historical fact sheets on the origins of NASA's X-33 program. The X-33 is a technology demonstrator for NASA's "next generation" of space launch vehicle. It will flight test a range of technologies needed for single-stage-to-orbit reusable launch vehicles, such as thermal protection systems, composite cryogenic fuel tanks, and the aerospike engine. Currently, there is no announced schedule of test flights. Eventually, based on the X-33 experience shared with NASA, Lockheed Martin hopes to build a commercial single-stage-to-orbit reusable launch vehicle, called VentureStar. In the future, rather than operate space transport systems as it has with the Space Shuttle, NASA has proposed purchasing launch services from Lockheed Martin and other commercial launch providers.

The decision to design and build the X-33 grew out of a NASA study called Access to Space. Previous fact sheets have dealt with the Access to Space study and its conclusions, the emergence of a tentative NASA program to build an experimental advanced technology demonstrator flight vehicle, the X-2000, public and Congressional support for a single-stage-to-orbit spaceship, and the funding difficulties of the country's only single-stage-to-orbit vehicle program, the DC-X.

This fact sheet explores enthusiasm for single-stage-to-orbit projects at the time of the Access to Space study and the proposed joint NASA-Department of Defense program to develop new single-stage-to-orbit launcher technologies through both ground research and flight testing on an experimental (or "X") vehicle, that grew out of the Option 3 portion of the Access to Space study. It then follows the transfer of the DC-X to NASA as the X vehicle for testing single-stage-to-orbit technologies on an actual craft, then discusses the novel use of the cooperative agreement as part of NASA's "new ways of doing business," and ends with the flight tests of the DC-XA, known also as the Clipper Graham.

Part I: Enthusiasm and Endorsements for Single-Stage-to-Orbit Spaceships

Part II: A Joint Plan for Launcher Technology Development

Part III: The DC-X mutates into the DC-XA

Part IV: The Flights of the DC-XA

Part V: Now What?

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