The Boeing Company
today announced it has made substantial progress toward key milestones in the
X-37 reusable spaceplane program, initiated under a cooperative agreement
signed with NASA in July 1999.
Beyond significant fabrication and assembly
results, the program has successfully conducted flight tests of the X-40A, a
vehicle designed to verify the flight dynamics of the X-37 and reduce risk on
the program.

The Boeing-built X-40A Space Maneuver Vehicle, an 85 percent scale version
of X-37, recently completed its fifth straight successful test flight at
NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.
During the flights, the unmanned X-40A
is dropped from a Chinook helicopter from 15,000 feet, and it autonomously
acquires the runway and lands in a mode similar to a conventional aircraft.
The X-40A uses the GN&C (Guidance, Navigation & Control) algorithms, software,
CADS (Calculated Air Data System), SIGI (Space Integrated GPS/INS) and
aerodynamic performance maneuvers of the X-37 as well as its mobile FOCC
(Flight Operations Control Center).
The X-40A will perform a total of seven
drop tests to support the low-speed atmospheric flight dynamics of the X-37.

“We are particularly excited about the X-40A flight test phase.
recent series of successful flights has really inspired our team,” said
Ron Prosser, vice president Advanced Space & Communications for
Boeing Phantom Works. “We are building confidence in the systems’ autonomous
vehicle operations capabilities while acquiring valuable flight data that will
verify the subsonic approach and landing characteristics of the X-37 vehicle
design. Concurrently, the balance of the X-37 program is making excellent
technical progress across the board.”

“Prior to performing the flight tests, we verified the software and flight
algorithms using our Avionics and Software Simulation Lab in conjunction with
the FOCC,” said Randy Hein, X-40A project manager for Boeing Phantom Works.
“A similar lab will be used to verify the operations of the X-37. In fact, the
X-37 lab has recently become operational, with multi-string and redundant
hardware now undergoing testing with the first release of the X-37’s flight

The X-37 is unpiloted, autonomously operated and will be the only
X-vehicle capable of conducting on-orbit operations and collecting test data
in the Mach 25 (reentry) region of flight.
The X-37 will be launched into
orbit and will have the capability to remain in space for up to 21 days.
will also serve as a test bed for 40 airframe, propulsion and operation
technologies designed to make space transportation and operations
significantly more affordable.
Potential new commercial and military reusable
space vehicle market applications for these technologies range from on-orbit
satellite repair to the next-generation of totally reusable launch vehicles.

The X-37 concept permits testing of a wide variety of experiments and
technologies, including a highly durable, high-temperature thermal protection
system; storable, non-toxic liquid propellants; and important new aerodynamic
features, all of which are applicable to future reusable space vehicles. The
vehicle’s modular design, including a seven foot by four foot experiment bay,
will also allow testing of both current and future technologies within the
same vehicle, providing long-term cost savings.

“At this point in time the X-37 vehicle is progressing along well,” said
Dick Cervisi,
X-37 program manager for Boeing Phantom Works.
“Wind tunnel
tests designed to verify the aerodynamic design and performance from
Mach 10 to landing speeds are 93 percent complete.
In addition, aeroheating
wind tunnel tests to verify the methodology of predicting reentry environment
are 100 percent complete, and the arc jet testing of our new thermal
protection system concepts have matched the predicted values.
Over two-thirds
of the X-37 design is complete.
We’re looking forward to beginning final
vehicle assembly this summer.”

The X-37 will incorporate advanced technologies and processes from
throughout Boeing.
The graphite/BMI fuselage is being manufactured at the
St. Louis facility and the construction of the composite wings is being
carried out at the Huntington Beach facility.
Eighty-five percent of the
composite parts are fabricated, and final assembly of the fuselage structure
began last month.
Final assembly of the X-37, which is 27.5 feet long with a
wingspan of 15 feet, will take place at the Boeing X-Vehicle Assembly facility
in Palmdale, Calif.

The first unpowered drop test of the X-37 from a NASA B-52 is planned for
2002 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., while orbital tests are planned for

The X-37 government team, led by the Marshall Space Flight Center,
Huntsville, Ala., also includes NASA’s Ames Research Center, Mountain View,
Calif.; Kennedy Space Center, Fla.; Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt,
Md.; Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.; and Dryden Flight Research Center
and the U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.