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For release: May 22, 1997

Ann C. Gaudreaux
(757) 864-8150

RELEASE NO. 97-036

X-34 Technology Demonstrator Begins Wind Tunnel Tests at NASA Langley Research Center

Models of the X-34, a technology demonstrator for NASA's Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) program, are undergoing a series of tests in several NASA wind tunnels to obtain an aerodynamic database for the flight vehicle.

Tests in Langley's Low Turbulence Pressure Tunnel (LTPT) were conducted to obtain the vehicle's low-speed flight characteristics. A scale model, designed and fabricated in Langley's machine shops, was tested in its landing configuration with the gear extended to simulate final approach conditions just prior to touch down.

Tests have also recently been completed in Langley's 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel to obtain aerodynamic characteristics near the speed of sound (a Mach number of 1.0). Testing will soon begin in the Langley Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel at speeds ranging from Mach 1.6 to Mach 4.5. Testing of the models at Langley will continue through the summer and fall. These tests will include entries in Langley's 14- by 22-Foot, 20-Inch Mach 6 and Mach 6 CF4 Tunnels.

"Langley's role is to develop the vehicle's aerodynamic database," said Davy Haynes of Langley's Space Transportation Programs Office. "We are testing models of the X-34 configuration in wind tunnels, at speeds throughout the flight range, from low to hypersonic speeds. Langley researchers will extract the aerodynamic data, analyze the results, and generate the database. The database will be used to predict the way the vehicle will respond in flight."

According to Haynes, transonic tests in 16-Foot Tunnel generate a crucial part of the database. "After it is launched from the carrier aircraft, the X-34 must traverse the critical transonic flight regime between subsonic and supersonic flight when the aerodynamic force on the vehicle are at a maximum," he said. "The facilities and expertise at Langley are playing a major role in producing this database that is crucial to controlling the vehicle in flight."

Langley's work on a database will continue until the first flight of the vehicle in late 1998.

The X-34 will be a small air-launched vehicle that will reach altitudes up to 250,000 feet and speeds up to Mach 8, or eight times the speed of sound. The intent of the X-34 program is to show key vehicle and operational technologies applicable to future low-cost reusable launch vehicles. It will demonstrate the ability to fly through inclement weather and land horizontally at a designated landing site. The X-34 is also expected to serve as a testbed to develop technology applicable for future reusable launch vehicles, according to Haynes.

The X-34 is to be capable of 25 flights within one year at an average recurring flight cost of about $500,000. It will also demonstrate the capability for a 24-hour turnaround between flights using a small work force.

The X-34 contract is managed by Marshall Space Flight Center's RLV office, Huntsville, Ala., and the team members are led by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va. Industry team members include Allied Signal Aerospace, Tempe, Ariz. (control actuators, hydraulics); Oceaneering Space Systems, Houston, Texas (thermal blankets); and Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Mass. (entry guidance, flight software).

Government team members include Marshall (main propulsion system including the Fastrac engine); Langley (wind tunnel testing and analysis and aerodynamic database development); Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. (thermal protection system); Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif.; Holloman AFB, New Mexico; White Sands Test Facility, New Mexico; and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico (testing and flight support operations).

For more information, photos, b-roll and interviews, contact Ann Gaudreaux at (757) 864-8150, fax (757) 864-8199, e-mail a.c.gaudreaux@larc.nasa.gov

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