X-37B Boeing - Space Shuttle
The X-37B is a prototype of a reusable unmanned satellite. The first prototype is for atmospheric testing, while the second has a strengthened structure to support an enshrouded launch, which was originally planned to be launched in the Shuttle payload bay, the transferred after the Columbia accident to a Delta-7920 launch vehicle. Due to problems with the aerodynamics of an enshrouded launch, the first space test was be launched shrouded on a Atlas-5(501) or on a Delta-4M in 2006. Multiple flights with mission durations up to 21 days are planned. NASA asked Boeing to design the X-37 orbital vehicle for a 270-day stay on orbit.
The original X-37 was to feature an AR-2/3 engine for maneuvering and deorbiting, which uses Hydrogen Peroxide and JP-8 as oxidizer and fuel. Later the propulsion system has been changed to a hypergolic nitrogen tetroxide / hydrazine version with a robust propellant load for maneuvering in space and for the deorbit burn.
The X-37’s shape is a 120 percent scale derivative of the Air Force’s X-40A, also designed and built by Boeing, which was released from a helicopter and glide-tested in 1998. The X-40A, which lacks the X-37’s advanced thermal protection materials, rocket engine, experiment bay and other spacecraft systems, iwas released from a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter in a series of free flight tests in 2001 to reduce technical risk before flight testing the X-37.
NASA has directed Boeing to throttle back on development of the orbital variant of the X-37 prototype space plane until more money is found for the program, an action likely to delay a re-entry and landing demonstration that was planned for 2006.
Following transfer from NASA to DARPA in October 2004, the X-37 technology demonstrator, the Approach and Landing Test Vehicle, recently completed a series of captive carry and free flight tests from the White Knight aircraft, which was also used to launch the SpaceShipOne. The ALTV validated the X-37 program flight dynamics and extended the flight envelope beyond the earlier low speed/low altitude tests conducted by NASA. The ALTV, in its current configuration, is not capable of space flight.
The OTV program will focus on risk reduction, experimentation, and operational concept development for reusable space vehicle technologies, in support of long term developmental space objectives. The first orbital test flight of the OTV is planned for FY08, with a launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on an Atlas-5(501) launch vehicle. Key objectives of the first flight include demonstration and validation of guidance, navigation and control systems to include fault tolerant, autonomous reentry and landing as well as lightweight high temperature structures and landing gear. Vandenberg Air Force Base or will conduct reentry and recovery activities.
|A statement from the Secretary of the Air Force, states the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) program will focus on "risk reduction, experimentation, and operational concept development for reusable space vehicle technologies, in support of long term developmental space objectives."|
|White Knight and X-37B|
|X-37B in space/orbit|
Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!
Data for X-37A, X-40A:
|Length||8.38 m (27 ft 6 in)||w/o pitot: 6.70 m (22 ft 0 in)
(pitot: 1.5 m (5 ft))
|Wingspan||4.57 m (15 ft 0 in)||3.51 m (11 ft 6 in)|
|Height||2.76 m (9 ft 0.5 in)||2.20 m (7 ft 2.5 in)|
|Weight||5400 kg (12000 lb)||1200 kg (2650 lb)|
|Speed||Mach 25 (on reentry)||subsonic|
|Propulsion||Rocketdyne AR2-3 liquid-fueled rocket; 31 kN (7000 lb)||none|