X-38: Crew Return
X-38 program has been discontinued. The following article is for
first free flight test of the X-38 prototype was successfully
completed on July 9, 1999, at Dryden.|
During the first years
of the International Space Station's life on orbit, a Russian Soyuz
capsule will always be present to provide crewmembers with the means
to evacuate the station quickly. But work is well under way on development
of the new emergency crew return lifeboat for the International
X-38 Project Manager John Muratore says the X-38 project has two real purposes.
"The first is to prove
that we can build a low-cost crew return vehicle for the space station,"
says Muratore. "The second, more general purpose is to prove that
we can build human spacecraft for an order of magnitude less cost
than ever before. The original crew return vehicle project was costed
as much as 2 billion dollars back in the late 1980's but under the
X-38 project we're going to build and test-fly a prototype in space
for less than a tenth of that."
X-38 prototype begins its eighth free flight test on Thursday,
Dec. 13, 2001.|
The vehicle's construction
remains economical because of several factors. The X-38 uses a lifting
body design already proven and tested in experimental vehicles of
the 1970's. Additionally, parts of the X-38 can be bought over the
counter, using existing technology rather than technology invented
from scratch - a marked difference from past NASA spacecraft.
"Once this vehicle is attached
to the space station, let's say we have to fly away from the space
station and go get something and bring it back. For example, we
might choose to launch a cargo that could not fly itself to the
station. If we wanted, we could fly away and get the cargo and bring
it back. We could modify this design after the basic lifeboat function
has been developed so it could fly away and do utility jobs. It's
sort of a pickup truck for the space station."