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Future X Pathfinder: Quick, Low Cost Flight Testing for Tomorrow's Launch VehiclesThe DC-X and DC-XA Single Stage Technology flight program demonstrated the value of low cost rapid prototyping and flight testing of launch vehicle technology testbeds. NASA is continuing this important legacy through a program referred to as Future-X Pathfinder. This program is designed to field flight vehicle projects that cost around $100M each, with a new vehicle flying about every two years. Each vehicle project will develop and extensively flight test a launch vehicle technology testbed that will advance the state of the art in technologies directly relevant to future space transportation systems. There are currently two experimental, or "X" vehicle projects in the Pathfinder program, with additional projects expected to follow in the near future. The first Pathfinder project is X-34. X-34 is a suborbital rocket plane capable of flights to Mach 8 and 75 kilometers altitude. There are a number of reusable launch vehicle technologies embedded in the X-34 vehicle design, such as composite structures and propellant tanks, and advanced reusable thermal protection systems. In addition, X-34 is designed to carry experiments applicable to both the launch vehicle and hypersonic aeronautics community. X-34 is scheduled to fly later this year. The second Pathfinder project is the X-37. X-37 is an orbital space plane that is carried into orbit either by the Space Shuttle or by an expendable launch vehicle. X-37 provides NASA access to the orbital and orbital reentry flight regimes with an experimental testbed vehicle. The vehicle will expose embedded and carry-on advanced space transportation technologies to the extreme environments of orbit and reentry. Early atmospheric approach and landing tests of an unpowered version of the X-37 will begin next year, with orbital flights beginning in late 2001. Future-X Pathfinder is charting a course for the future with its growing fleet of low-cost X- vehicles. X-34 and X-37 are leading the assault on high launch costs and enabling the flight testing of technologies that will lead to affordable access to space.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
London, John, III
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Sumrall, Phil
(NASA Headquarters Washington, DC United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Subject Category
Launch Vehicles And Space Vehicles
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Meeting: International Astronautical Congress
Location: Amsterdam
Country: Netherlands
Start Date: October 4, 1999
End Date: October 8, 1999
Sponsors: International Astronautical Congress
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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