“The Lockheed Martin X-33 is an unmanned, sub-scale technology demonstrator suborbital spaceplane developed in the 1990s under the U.S. government-funded Space Launch Initiative program. X-33 was a technology demonstrator for the VentureStar orbital spaceplane. The VentureStar was planned to be a next-generation, commercially-operated reusable launch vehicle. The X-33 would flight-test a range of technologies that NASA believed it needed for single-stage-to-orbit reusable launch vehicles (SSTO RLVs), such as metallic thermal protection systems, composite cryogenic fuel tanks for liquid hydrogen, the aerospike engine, autonomous (unmanned) flight control, rapid flight turn-around times through streamlined operations, and its lifting body aerodynamics.

Failures led to the cancellation of the program as a federal program in 2001, but Lockheed Martin has conducted related testing, and has had successes as recently as 2009”. – Wikipedia

Photo: An Artist's Rendering Shows How Nasa's X-33 Technology Demonstrator, A Cost-Cutting Fully Reusable Single-Stage-To-Orbit Space Vehicle, Will Look Upon Completion. The 67 Foot-Long, 278,600 Pound, Twin Engine Space Vehicle, Capable Of Reaching Speeds In Excess Of Mach 15, Will Lead To The Construction Of A 127 Foot-Long, 2,186,000 Pound Version With Seven Engines And A 50,000 Pound Payload Capacity Called The “Venturestar”. (Photo By Nasa/Getty Images)

22 Mar 2011 12:05:00