Author Topic: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened  (Read 239858 times)

Online Chris Bergin

X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« on: 01/04/2006 03:40 PM »
Ok, I'm pre-empting this article as it's different to the style of reporting we normally have on here.

https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2006/01/x-33venturestar-what-really-happened/

A couple of notes to keep in mind:

1) This was written by a couple of sources deeply involved in the program.
2) I've edited it, given some objective counter-points, and paraphrased the orginal article they compiled.
3) There were some controversial notes about Al Gore and Dick Cheney, to which I wanted to exclude from the actual article - with the option of adding them as sidebars in this thread later.
4) This is work carried out over several months, eight sources - including the US Air Force who finally replied to a question four months after an initial request.
5) No one wanted to be quoted - apart from historical quotes - given the need for full confidentiality.

Online nacnud

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #1 on: 01/04/2006 03:52 PM »
Ooh, all excited now :)

Online Chris Bergin

Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #2 on: 01/04/2006 05:51 PM »
This should be going on about 9pm to 10pm UK time, fyi...following this I'll be going heavy with a number of STS articles (LH2 Diffuser, O2 leak investigation update, ET update, manifest (PRCB update)).

Offline Flightstar

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #3 on: 01/04/2006 09:44 PM »
Well I never. A lot to take in here, but a blessing in disguise maybe?

Offline Launch Fan

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #4 on: 01/04/2006 10:22 PM »
Well I followed the X-33 and I had NO IDEA about 90 per cent of this!  :o

I thought the tank failed, they were going to try the new type of tank, funding wasn't there, project dead. This is a hell of a lot to take on board when you read all of this. I'm really not sure what to think right now. Thanks so much for the story!

Offline Davros

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #5 on: 01/04/2006 10:28 PM »
You can be sure that Ivan Bekey was taken off the X-33 worker Christmas card list. Although it seems his testimoney was right in the way this all played out in the end.

Offline Tap-Sa

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #6 on: 01/04/2006 10:35 PM »
Quote
Launch Fan - 5/1/2006  1:22 AM

 I'm really not sure what to think right now.

"Never underestime management's power to fubar everything" ? :(

In this case the management insisted on composite tanks despite the warnings of those who knew better from the beginning, and proceeded to convince politicians that project is a failure without such tank even if Li-Al tank was already found to be a better choice even mass-wise. 'Lovely'!


Offline Bruce H

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #8 on: 01/04/2006 10:45 PM »
Take your pic on who you want to blame. I blame the ship being touted to commercial customers, cheap doesn't always work.

When all is said, Cheney didn't want Gore's baby flying, in my opinion. That's why the Air Force never got to try.

Offline Dobbins

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #9 on: 01/04/2006 10:46 PM »
Personally I think the project was doomed the minute they decided to build a SSTO vehicle, that mistake was the root many problems that followed.

Let's separate the X-33 from the VentureStar. X means experimental, X-planes are experimental aircraft. Putting a host of new technologies on an X-plane is one thing, making plans to build an operational vehicle from an X-plane that is filled with every new gadget that can be stuffed into it, and making these plans before the X-plane even flies was utter madness.

An X-plane full of new technology is fine as a test bed for that technology. The two most famous X-planes, the X-1 and the X-15 were both test beds, neither was ever intended to be an operational vehicle. Trying to make either into an operational vehicle would have been a complete waste of time and money.

VentureStar's SSTO concept was a bad idea from day one, and it became an even worse idea when the commercial launch market imploded  That aspect of the project never should have been approved, and it should have been canceled a lot sooner.

The X-33 should have been continued however with the understanding that it was an X-plane and nothing more. A test bed for the new TPS system and the Aerospike engine.

John B. Dobbins

Offline Tap-Sa

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #10 on: 01/04/2006 11:04 PM »
Another thing to consider is that hydrogen isn't necessarily the propellant of choice for SSTO.

Offline Bruce H

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #11 on: 01/04/2006 11:32 PM »
Here's the first tank, which was not used.


Offline Bruce H

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #12 on: 01/04/2006 11:33 PM »
And the one that was used for testing.

Offline Orbiter Obvious

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #13 on: 01/04/2006 11:53 PM »
$1.5 billion down the drain too. That's a lot of cash to throw away.

Offline Andy L

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #14 on: 01/05/2006 12:12 AM »
I don't understand why they didn't change the engine blocks if that caused a reaction through other parts. I thought we'd got past this aft heavy situation post-Columbia?

Offline Bruce H

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #15 on: 01/05/2006 01:27 AM »
Some more images...

Offline vt_hokie

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #16 on: 01/05/2006 01:34 AM »
I always suspected that politics and the change in the White House may have played a role in X-33's demise.  It's a shame.  Still, they should have pursued a fully reusable two stage system.  I don't understand the focus on SSTO.  

I just hope that CEV gets cancelled, and maybe the next presidential administration will support advancement beyond STS, rather than a return to Apollo capsules.

Offline Dobbins

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #17 on: 01/05/2006 02:17 AM »
Quote
vt_hokie - 4/1/2006  9:34 PM
I just hope that CEV gets cancelled, and maybe the next presidential administration will support advancement beyond STS, rather than a return to Apollo capsules.

The chances of a Republican administration canceling the CEV in favor of a new spaceplane are almost non-existent.

There is a greater likelihood of a Democratic administration canceling the CEV, but it wouldn't be for a spaceplane, It would be for some new welfare giveaway.

John B. Dobbins

Offline BogoMIPS

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #18 on: 01/05/2006 02:17 AM »
Quote
I just hope that CEV gets cancelled, and maybe the next presidential administration will support advancement beyond STS, rather than a return to Apollo capsules

If we wait for each sucessive presidential administration to come up with a different vision, we'll just see more of the same, where each system architecture gets cancelled for the next "flavor of the month".  The STS-system in place now needs to be changed, if not replaced.  

I agree that a reliable, reusable TSTO system, with maintenance costs an order of magnitude cheaper than the partially/mostly-reusable systems available now would be great, and probably better than CEV/CLV and the SDHLV.  These certainly aren't (or at least I *hope* they aren't) the last vehicles we design.

I hope we can do both!  Get a reliable, safer system, based on our current technology, that builds on tested methods.  Then, continue looking towards the future, with more revolutionary designs.

Offline Jamie Young

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Re: X-33/VentureStar - What really happened
« Reply #19 on: 01/05/2006 02:51 AM »
I wonder if the loss of all that money was part reason to do with Griffin being told he'd have to find his own shortfall of money through cuts, rather than Congress bailing out NASA again?

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