X-33 flight test delayedhttp://defence-data.com/storypic/x33tankz.jpg [not image]
17 January 2000
The X-33 space plane will miss its first autonomous test flight scheduled for July because its graphite-epoxy composite fuel tanks have defects, and have failed tests.
A decision on whether to repair or replace the tanks depends on the outcome of an investigation by NASA and Lockheed Martin Corporation into last fall's failure of one of the tanks during testing, the second such defect in a year, according to Jerry Rising, president of VentureStar LLC,
X-33 fuel tanks being lowered onto test stand
The X-33 is a pilotless prototype for VentureStar spacecraft similar in all respects except scale, and is intended to reduce risk in the development of the full size spacecraft. The VentureStar partners are hoping to build and operate it as a replacement to the Space Shuttle, allowing much cheaper access to space.
The first test flight from Edwards Air Force Base in California State to Utah State's Dugway Proving Ground is " definitely going to be delayed," said Rising, adding, "If we have to build aluminum tanks for the X-33, that will take about 18 months,"
Utah's Alliant Techsystems was paid more than $60 million by Lockheed Martin and NASA for to make the graphite-epoxy composite tanks,