The X-33 is a half-scale prototype of a reusable launch vehicle (RLV) Lockheed Martin calls the "VentureStarTM." The goal of the program is to demonstrate in flight the technologies needed for a full-size RLV, and thus enable private industry to build and operate the RLVin the first decade of this century.
The Lockheed Martin X-33 design is based on a lifting bodyshape with two revolutionary linear aerospike rocket engines and a rugged metallic thermal protection system. It will be an autonomously piloted vehicle, launched vertically like a rocket, reaching an altitude of 60 miles and speeds faster than Mach 13 (13 times the speed of sound), and landing horizontally like an airplane. Although suborbital, the X-33 will fly high enough and fast enough to encounter conditions similar to those experienced on an orbital flight path to fully test its systems and performance. Highlighting the vehicle's aircraft-like operations, the X-33 program will demonstrate a standard seven-day turnaround, as well as an emergency two-day turnaround, between selected flights.
A series of 15 flight tests is planned to begin at the turn of the century. Initial flights of 450 miles will be conducted from Edwards Air Force Base, CA, to Dugway Proving Ground, UT. As officials gain increased confidence in the vehicle's performance, plans will call for more challenging 950-mile flights from Edwards AFB to Malmstrom AFB, MT. NASA has budgeted $941 million for the X-33 program.
The industry team includes lead Lockheed Martin in, Palmdale, CA; AlliedSignal Aerospace, Teterboro, NJ; Boeing Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, CA; B.F. Goodrich Aerospace, Chula Vista, CA; and Sverdrup, St. Louis, MO. The government team includes NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, the program manager; Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA; Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Mojave, CA; Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD; Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA; Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX; Kennedy Space Center, FL; Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA; Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH; and Stennis Space Center, MS.
Length: 69 ft
Width: 77 ft
Takeoff weight: 285,000 lbs
Fuel weight: 210,000 lbs
Main Propulsion: 2 J-2S Linear Aerospikes
Take-off thrust: 410,000 lbs
Maximum speed: Mach 13+
Payload to Low Earth Orbit: N/A