Author Topic: X-34: Why was it cancelled and where is the vehicle today?  (Read 48728 times)

Offline vt_hokie

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Unlike X-33, I was under the impression that X-34 was progressing nicely toward flight tests when the program was cancelled.  What was the reasoning behind its cancellation?  Orbital handled final assembly of the X-34, correct?  I remember seeing photos of at least one completed vehicle.

Offline yinzer

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Well, it depends on who you talk to.  But after the loss of MCO and MPL, NASA got a lot more risk-averse, and MSFC decided that the X-34 would require much more flight control redundancy and analysis and such before it could fly.  This would cost too much money, so the X-34 got cancelled.

There are also people who will tell you that the FASTRAC engine was way over budget, behind schedule, and possibly underperforming.  There are also people who will tell you that the X-34 without the added redundancy and testing that the X-34 would have probably, rather than just maybe, crashed.  There are also people who will tell you that Gary Hudson offered to flight test the thing on his own dime if NASA would consider paying him money for the data if it worked, but NASA said no.
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Offline meiza

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Eh, that could have been something, Hudson flying the X-34... But I wonder, NASA still would have gotten bad PR if it had crashed, I think.

Offline GClark

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Interesting news from SA'10.

The X-34s were located and rescued from the Edwards bombing range.  If they are still usuable, the apparent intent is to use them as quick turnaround reusable technology testbeds.

A quick question:  I was under the impression that there were three of them.  The presentation only mentions two.  Can someone enlighten me here?  (Beg, grovel, plead)

Offline Blackstar

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Eh, that could have been something, Hudson flying the X-34... But I wonder, NASA still would have gotten bad PR if it had crashed, I think.

How many successful projects has he completed?

Offline kevin-rf

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I assume you have seen Dr. Elias's comments back in 2007 on it:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=3911.msg186949#msg186949
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Offline GClark

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I assume you have seen Dr. Elias's comments back in 2007 on it:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=3911.msg186949#msg186949

I had not, actually.  Thanks for the pointer.

Offline kevin-rf

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There is a picture of them sitting in a hangar later in the thread:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=3911.msg186292#msg186292

btw anyone know why I can not get the search function to work correctly with X-34?
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Offline Jester

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Offline brtbrt

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another pic of one of them

http://www.airliners.net/photo/NASA/Orbital-Sciences-X-34/1327060/M/

Alas, both surviving birds have been sitting outside since last fall. Last I heard, on the east side of the lake. They were saved from being shot full of holes by some great folks from Dryden, with help from USAF. I haven't heard what will become of them in the future. But they are not in prime shape.

The components of the third airframe didn't do so well. They used to be stored in shipping container on North Base. Someone needed the containers, so most of the spares were simply dumped on the ground and left to rot in the sun.

Offline brtbrt

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Re: X-34: Outer Mold Line
« Reply #10 on: 06/02/2010 04:31 am »
On a related note, does anyone know where I can get ahold of the Outer Mold Line in some reasonable CAD format? Solidworks, Inventor, DXF, etc.

I'm hoping to do X-Plane mods for both the X-34 and the X-33 (I've already asked for that info in the X-33 thread). There's already an Orbiter mod, but I can't figure out how to convert the Orbiter mesh into an X-Plane mesh. And I think X-Plane does a better job of aerodynamics and subsonic handling characteristics.

Offline AnalogMan

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Re: X-34: Why was it cancelled and where is the vehicle today?
« Reply #11 on: 11/19/2010 06:35 pm »
Interesting news from SA'10.

The X-34s were located and rescued from the Edwards bombing range.  If they are still usuable, the apparent intent is to use them as quick turnaround reusable technology testbeds.

A quick question:  I was under the impression that there were three of them.  The presentation only mentions two.  Can someone enlighten me here?  (Beg, grovel, plead)


Update here:
http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2010/11/19/349997/photos-nasa-moves-x-34s-out-of-storage-considers-return-to-flight.html

Offline simonbp

Interesting...

Since FASTRAC is dead and buried (and its ghost haunting the SpaceX halls), I wonder what engine, if any, they would use in any return-to-flight. NK-33 or Merlin would seem to be the right size, though on the other hand, an XCOR or SpaceDev hybrid may be cheaper...

Offline Danderman

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Re: X-34: Why was it cancelled and where is the vehicle today?
« Reply #13 on: 11/19/2010 09:24 pm »
Interesting...

Since FASTRAC is dead and buried (and its ghost haunting the SpaceX halls), I wonder what engine, if any, they would use in any return-to-flight. NK-33 or Merlin would seem to be the right size, though on the other hand, an XCOR or SpaceDev hybrid may be cheaper...

The obvious choice would be NK-39, since that is what Orbital wanted to use.

Offline Patchouli

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Re: X-34: Why was it cancelled and where is the vehicle today?
« Reply #14 on: 11/20/2010 05:51 am »
Interesting...

Since FASTRAC is dead and buried (and its ghost haunting the SpaceX halls), I wonder what engine, if any, they would use in any return-to-flight. NK-33 or Merlin would seem to be the right size, though on the other hand, an XCOR or SpaceDev hybrid may be cheaper...

The obvious choice would be NK-39, since that is what Orbital wanted to use.

Has an NK-39 been tested recently and have they been fitted with modern control systems yet?

A Merlin or Spacedev hybrid might be the only realistic option.

The XCOR engines even the XR-5M15 seem too small to be a drop in replacement for FASTRAC.

The hybrid might be the cheapest since they might be able to get away with a standard SS2 or DreamChaser engine for early tests.

To reach mach 8 they'll needed a longer burning engine.
« Last Edit: 11/20/2010 06:09 am by Patchouli »

Offline Danny Dot

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Re: X-34: Why was it cancelled and where is the vehicle today?
« Reply #15 on: 11/20/2010 02:51 pm »
One of the problems I remember hearing is X-34 didn't answer any unanswered questions.  We know how to enter a winged vehicle from space.

Danny Deger
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Offline martin hegedus

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Re: X-34: Outer Mold Line
« Reply #16 on: 11/20/2010 05:11 pm »
On a related note, does anyone know where I can get ahold of the Outer Mold Line in some reasonable CAD format? Solidworks, Inventor, DXF, etc.

I'm hoping to do X-Plane mods for both the X-34 and the X-33 (I've already asked for that info in the X-33 thread). There's already an Orbiter mod, but I can't figure out how to convert the Orbiter mesh into an X-Plane mesh. And I think X-Plane does a better job of aerodynamics and subsonic handling characteristics.

Any luck finding the outer mold line?  I know that Orbital had an IGES description of it, but not how it was generated.  I can't remember if the contact for it was out of Chandler or Dulles, but I think it was Dulles.  I assume NASA Marshall and Langley had it also.  Both Marshall and Langley had an APAS description of the X-34 which is lower fidelity than IGES.  Some CFD was done on it by NASA also.  In fact papers were written on the X-34 aero database.  A quick search led me to this. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.31.6064&rep=rep1&type=pdf  Also, AIAA paper 2000-0900 describes the generation of the database.  I know that Dr. Pamadi, an author of the papers, is still at Langley.  I doubt he can help you with the IGES file since that is probably intellectual property of Orbital.  The aerodynamic database may be a different story.  NASA may have the distribution rights to it.  However, it may not be in public domain.  In regards to the IGES file, Mr. Ruth and Mr. Fuhrmann, assuming they are still at Orbital, may be able to help you out in determining if you can access the IGES file.

Once you figure out the aerodynamics you can compare it to what is in literature.  The only area I guess Orbiter or X-Plane will compare well to is longitudinal aero at subsonic low angle of attack flow conditions.  Lateral aero prediction may be bad all around.  And that is without body flap deflections.  But I haven't used either code, it's just a hunch.

Edit:  Henri Fuhrmann is now the Orion Launch Abort System Program Manager at Orbital.  So he is still around and probably in a position to tell you the distribution possibilities for the X-34 IGES file(s) and, if you are interested, the aero database.
« Last Edit: 11/20/2010 06:01 pm by martin hegedus »

Offline neilh

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Re: X-34: Why was it cancelled and where is the vehicle today?
« Reply #17 on: 11/20/2010 05:51 pm »
One of the problems I remember hearing is X-34 didn't answer any unanswered questions.  We know how to enter a winged vehicle from space.

We don't know how to do it cost-effectively.
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Offline savuporo

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Re: X-34: Why was it cancelled and where is the vehicle today?
« Reply #18 on: 11/20/2010 08:28 pm »
One of the problems I remember hearing is X-34 didn't answer any unanswered questions.  We know how to enter a winged vehicle from space.

Danny Deger
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Offline Patchouli

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Re: X-34: Why was it cancelled and where is the vehicle today?
« Reply #19 on: 11/20/2010 11:14 pm »
One of the problems I remember hearing is X-34 didn't answer any unanswered questions.  We know how to enter a winged vehicle from space.

We don't know how to do it cost-effectively.

It can still help us learn about thermo protection systems "every heat shield material we presently have in use is lacking in some manner or another" and how to operate a rocket propelled vehicle with a short turn around.
« Last Edit: 11/20/2010 11:14 pm by Patchouli »

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