November 14, 1997: X-33 Launch Pad Construction Began

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  • Air Force Flight Test Center

Construction began on a launch pad for the X-33. A key part of a planned X-33 launch complex on the east side of Rogers Dry lake near Haystack Butte, the facility would be equipped to raise the vehicle to a vertical launch position. Powered by liquid hydrogen and oxygen, the craft was designed to reach altitudes of 60 miles and speeds up to Mach 13.

Area 1-42 is composed of 103.9 acres with 21,539 square feet of related facilities including the translating shelter for X-33 launch vehicle, Electrical Equipment, Launch Pad, Ground Interface Module, Office Trailers, and storage for LH2, LO2, GN2, and GHe. Purpose: Launch site for NASA/Lockheed X-33 vehicle. Products: Pre-launch Calibration and Checkout Trajectory Data Evaluation Post-flight performance analysis.

The X-33 is a wedged-shaped subscale technology demonstrator prototype of a potential future Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) that Lockheed Martin has dubbed VentureStar. The company hopes to develop VentureStar early this century. Through demonstration flight and ground research, NASA's X-33 program will provide the information needed for industry representatives such as Lockheed Martin to decide whether to proceed with the development of a full-scale, commercial RLV program.  The X-33 design was based on a lifting body shape with two revolutionary "linear aerospike" rocket engines and a rugged metallic thermal protection system. The vehicle also was to have lightweight components and fuel tanks built to conform to the vehicle's outer shape. Time between X-33 flights was planned to be seven days, but the program had hoped to demonstrate a two-day turnaround between flights during the flight-test phase of the program.  The X-33 was to have been an unpiloted vehicle that would have taken off vertically like a rocket and then land horizontally like an airplane. It was intended to reach altitudes of up to 50 miles and high hypersonic speeds. The X-33 Program was managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center and was to have been launched at a special launch site on Edwards Air Force Base. Technical problems with the vehicle's composite liquid hydrogen tank resulted in the X-33 being cancelled in February 2001.    

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