Above: Left to right, the X-33 demonstrator, the demonstrator and the full scale VentureStar vehicles represented alongside the Space Shuttle for scale, and the X-33 represented in flight.
July 2, 1996
Headquarters, Washington, DC
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL
LOCKHEED MARTIN SELECTED TO BUILD X-33
Vice President Al Gore today announced that Lockheed Martin has been selected to build the X-33 test vehicle, a one-half scale model of the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) which will be used to demonstrate advanced technologies that will dramatically increase reliability and lower the costs of putting payloads into space.
Lockheed Martin will design, build and conduct the first
test flight of the X-33 test vehicle by March 1999, and conduct at least fifteen
flights by December 1999. NASA has budgeted $941 million for the project
through 1999. Lockheed Martin will invest $220 million in its X-33 design.
Called "VentureStar," the Lockheed Martin design is based on a lifting body shape with a radical new aerospike engine and a rugged metallic thermal protection system which would be launched vertically like a rocket and land horizontally like an airplane.
"The RLV program is a radical departure from the way NASA has done business in the past," NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin said. "Our role is to develop the high risk technologies that industry cannot afford. But we won't build the vehicle, industry will. NASA will be a user, not an operator."
Goldin said the objective of the RLV technology program is simple. "We want to develop technologies that will allow industry to build a vehicle that takes days, not months, to turn-around; dozens, not thousands of people to operate; reliability ten times better than anything flying today; and launch costs that are a tenth of what they are now. Our goal is a reusable launch vehicle that will cut the cost of a pound of payload to orbit from $10,000 to $1,000."
The X-33 will integrate and demonstrate all the technologies in a scale version that would be needed for industry to build a full-size RLV. "The X-33 will be about half the size of a full-scale RLV. It will be a remotely-piloted, sub-orbital vehicle, capable of altitudes up
to 50 miles and speeds of Mach 15," said RLV Director Gary Payton.
The X-33 program is being conducted under a Cooperative Agreement, not a conventional customer/supplier contract. Under this agreement, NASA defined the broad objectives and industry proposed an approach to meet the objectives. "Cooperative agreements are performance-based," said Payton. "Payment is made only after the industry partner completes a pre-determined milestone."
"The X-33 test vehicle is the most advanced part of a three-pronged RLV program to develop and demonstrate the kinds of technologies required by industry to build a new launch system that will provide truly affordable and reliable access to space," Payton said. "The RLV approach is to design a little, build a little, test a little, fly a little."
* The subsonic DC-XA, or Clipper Graham vehicle which has successfully flown three times from its launch site in White Sands, New Mexico, is flight testing advanced technologies such as lightweight composite propellant tanks,
fuel lines and valves.
* The Mach 8 X-34 vehicle, to be built by Orbital Sciences Corp., will demonstrate technologies necessary for a reusable vehicle.
* The Mach 15 X-33 vehicle which will integrate and test advanced components and technologies necessary for industry to build a full-scale RLV.
Three industry teams competed for the X-33 vehicle. In addition to Lockheed Martin, proposals were submitted by McDonnell Douglas, Huntington Beach, CA, and Rockwell International, Downey, CA.
Due to an innovative, paperless procurement process, the X-33 evaluation and selection was completed in about one-quarter of the time it normally takes to finish procurements of this size. Proposals were submitted by the three companies in April on CD-ROM media. One CD-ROM replaced approximately eight boxes worth of printed material. Proposals were read on-screen by each evaluator, and an evaluation database allowed them to enter strengths and weaknesses on-line while reading the proposal.
The VentureStar team includes prime contractor Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, Palmdale, CA; Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, CA; Rohr, Chula Vista, CA; and AlliedSignal Aerospace, Teterboro, NJ.
Website Contact: Edgar Zapata, NASA Kennedy Space Center