X-33 Stays Cool In Early Development Stage
News story originally written on February 5, 1999
Engineers have finished testing the heat shields that will be used on the
X-33, a prototype of a new reusable launch vehicle. The heat shields
passed a series of tests that included time in a wind tunnel at high
speeds and high temperatures and flights aboard an F-15.
The thermal shields consist of metalic sheets over an insulating material.
They will protect the X-33 from extreme temperatures during atmospheric
re-entry. The thermal shields can protect against temperatures as high as
1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
The X-33 is a half-size working model of the new aerospace plane, called
the VentureStar. The VentureStar is a single-stage-to-orbit reusable
launch vehicle that will replace the space shuttle. Officials hope that
the new RLV will reduce the cost of space travel--from $10,000 per pound
to $1,000 per pound.
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