The X33 is killed. So now what?

Well, the X33 and 34 were killed today. What in the hell is NASA going to use to replace the shuttle fleet? Is there any other plans on the drawing board? The Columbia is 20 years old, and others not very far behind. I would imagine with upgrades and overhauls they could be in service for a long time (40 years?..just a number I pulled out of my ass) but there has to be a ceiling.

So whats next and when?

“Imagineering” ?!???

The X-33 was never meant as a replacement for the shuttle. NASA has the Space Launch Initiative for that, and Bush just increased its budget by 64%. NASA is now spending about 6 billion dollars a year on this. The SLI is supposed to develop technology and sponsor a competition amongst private companies to take over the entire launch and vehicle. NASA will basically just give them payloads to launch.

Vehicle construction is supposed to start in 2005, and operations are supposed to begin in 2010. To make the shuttles last that long, NASA has been refurbing the current ones, installing new Avionics, etc.

I’ve seen those CGI concept films for the X-33 for years now, and remember being really excited about them.

The X-33 always intrigued me, especially its drive system. I thought it would herald a new era in avionics.

If I was NASA, I wouldn’t let all the R&D that went into it go to waste. I would try to get it re-used in civillian contexts, perhaps licensing out relevant technologies to generate revenue for the space program.

I’m still torqued off about the military killing the Dyna-Soar.

I used to have a link to a site that had a gallery of unimplemented space programs. I remember a manned spy mission based upon the Gemini capsule, and an expanded Skylab, as well as several intriguing Soviet rockets (Buran, anyone?). I think the site was called “Blue Sky” or something similar, but I cannot find it now. Anyone know of this site?

They’re not scrapping all the technology that went into the X-33. The aerospike engines will be used in the SLI, and most of the basic research into composites and ceramics will also make it over.

Frankly, I thought the X-33 was a bad choice anyway. I much preferred the VTOL rocket (DC-X) that was in the competition. That thing was WAY cool, and the project was much farther along (they were actually flying the 1/2 scale Proof-of-concept vehicle successfully).

Anyway, this was a project ripe for killing. It was going seriously over budget and over time. Hell, the thing was supposed to be flying three years ago, but engineers on the project couldn’t figure out how to keep fuel in it (the tank design couldn’t withstand the forces of flight). It had numerous other problems, too.

Anyway, the resource that were being poured into that will now go to the SLI, and Bush increased funding for that by 64%. So hopefully we’ll see another cool vehicle within a couple of years.

Sounds like They have stuff I’d never even heard referred to before. Great source!