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[i]NASA has transferred leadership of the X-37 program to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), after finding that the reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator does not fit agency goals. In particular, NASA is no longer focused on reusable launch vehicles, an agency official said.
Darpa plans two captive-carry and three gliding drops of the X-37 approach and landing test vehicle (ALTV) in early to mid-2005. The NASA scheme was to drop the X-37 ALTV from an agency B-52H carrier aircraft at 40,000 ft., but Darpa will use a carrier provided by Scaled Composites, a NASA official said.
NASA's Office of Exploration Systems started a review of all programs in December 2003, which ended in late spring. It concluded that the X-37 no longer supported the agency's vision for space exploration, the official said. At that point NASA started talks with Darpa about taking over the program. "Darpa had interest in completing ALTV through a cooperative effort," he said. The ALTV will demonstrate autonomous landing of a gliding entry configuration that flies like a rock with stub wings. The X-40, an 80%-scale version of the X-37 designed to also explore the low-speed envelope, had landing speeds around 175 kt.[/i]
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