RELEASE: 96-177

NASA has finalized its contract
negotiations with Orbital Sciences Corp. (OSC), Dulles, VA, to
design, build and test-fly the X-34, a small, reusable technology
demonstrator vehicle. The 30-month contract is valued at
approximately $50 million. An additional $10 million will be
spent by NASA in direct support of X-34 by NASA Centers and other
government agencies.

NASA selected Orbital Sciences for
the X-34 contract in June. The contract with OSC includes two
powered flight tests scheduled to begin in the fall of 1998 at
White Sands Missile Range, NM, that will occur within a period of
four months.

The X-34 is a single-engine rocket
with short wings and a small tail surface. The vehicle is 58.3
feet long, 27.7 feet wide at wing tip and 11-1/2 feet tall from
the bottom of the fuselage to the top of the tail.

The X-34 will be carried aloft and
launched from an Orbital Sciences L-1011 aircraft at the White
Sands Missile Range, NM. It will complete the initial flights
within the White Sands range air space and land at the facility’s

The fast-track X-34 program calls
for demonstrating a vehicle that will be capable of flying at
eight times the speed of sound and reaching an altitude of
250,000 feet. The vehicle will demonstrate low-cost reusability,
autonomous landing, subsonic flights through rain, safe abort
conditions, and landing in 20-knot cross winds.

NASA may exercise a contract
option for up to 25 additional test flights, if required, during
a 12-month period beginning immediately after the initial
contract is complete. Flights would originate from either White
Sands or the Kennedy Space Center, FL. The Florida location would
be used to test the X-34’s subsonic flight capabilities in
weather conditions such as rain, high cross winds and fog.

The X-34 program is one of three
within the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) technology program
managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL. The
others are the subsonic Clipper Graham test vehicle and the Mach
15 X-33 advanced technology demonstrator, scheduled to begin
flight demonstrations in early 1999. The overall RLV program aims
to reduce the cost of access to space by a factor of 10, and
promote the creation and delivery of new space services and other
activities that will improve U.S. economic competitiveness.

NASA centers and government
installations involved in the X-34 program include the Marshall
Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, which is providing design
and development of the vehicle’s main propulsion system; Langley
Research Center, Hampton, VA, which is conducting key
aerodynamics testing in its wind tunnels; Ames Research Center,
Mountain View, CA, which is providing the thermal protection
system for the X-34’s leading edges and nose cap; White Sands
Test Facility, NM, operated by the Johnson Space Center, Houston,
TX; the Army’s White Sands Missile Range, NM; Holloman Air Force
Base, NM; and NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA,
which is assisting with the flight test portion of the contract.