For release: April 10, 1997
Ann C. Gaudreaux
Catherine E. Watson
RELEASE NO. 97-023
X-33 Models Undergo Wind Tunnel Tests at NASA Langley
Scale models of the X-33 flight test vehicle, a technology
demonstrator leading to the nations next-generation space
transportation system, are undergoing extensive wind tunnel testing
at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
Several models are being tested in a half-dozen tunnels at
Langley as part of a joint NASA-Lockheed Martin effort to develop
the technologies for a space transportation system that would
provide faster and cheaper access to space than current systems.
The technology will first be tested in a suborbital vehicle known
as the X-33.
The wind tunnel tests are providing information about how the
vehicles design performs aerodynamically over a range of
speeds from takeoff to hypersonic flight approaching a Mach number
of 15 (15 times the speed of sound).
In the early phases of the program, screening tests were
conducted in the Langley 22-Inch Mach 20 Helium Tunnel. The helium
tunnel was chosen for initial testing because it operates at room
temperatures which allows testing to be performed on six-inch
plastic models that can be made quickly and inexpensively.
These tests measure the high Mach number aerodynamics that
must be understood to design an aerospace vehicle for flight in
this speed regime, said Bill Scallion, an engineer in the
Aerothermodynamics Branch who heads aerodynamic testing for the
An aluminum and stainless steel model of the X-33
about 15 inches long by 15 inches wide was also
recently tested in the Low Turbulence Pressure Tunnel (LTPT) at
These subsonic tests were conducted at the speed of Mach
0.25. Aerodynamic force and moment testing in this tunnel lasted
about one week, said Kelly Murphy of the Aerothermodynamics
The same model is now being tested in Langleys 16-Foot
Transonic Tunnel until mid-April 1997. The 16-Foot tunnel runs at
speeds near the speed of sound. Following these tests, the model
will be moved to the Langleys Unitary Wind Tunnel for
supersonic (Mach 1.5 to 4.5) testing from mid-April to early
Additional tunnel testing of X-33 models is scheduled through
June in tunnels in the Hypersonic Facilities Complex, and from
mid-June to mid-July in the Langley 14- by 22-Foot Subsonic
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. is the lead
NASA center for managing the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) program,
an industry-led effort that NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin has
declared the agencys highest priority new program.
The RLV Technology Program is a partnership among NASA, the Air
Force and private industry to develop world leadership in low-cost
space transportation. The goal of the program is to develop
technologies and new operational concepts that can radically reduce
the cost of access to space.
The RLV program also hopes to speed the commercialization of
space and improve U.S. economic competitiveness by making access to
space as routine and reliable as todays airline industry,
while reducing costs and enhancing safety and reliability.
The RLV program combines ground and flight demonstrations. The
use of experimental flight vehicles like the X-33 will help verify
vehicle systems performance in a realistic environment.
For photos, interviews or more information, contact Ann C.
Gaudreaux, (757) 864-8150, fax (757) 864-8199, e-mail,
email@example.com. The NASA Langley Office of External
Affairs home page address is http://oea.larc.nasa.gov/
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