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Author Topic:   X-38 crew return vehicles on display
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-02-2009 11:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
X-38 CRV (V-132) drops into Nebraska
Drivers in Nebraska may have encountered an unusual sight on Saturday, October 31, as a mockup of NASA's once-planned X-38 International Space Station crew return vehicle (CRV) concluded the last leg of its journey from Space Center Houston in Texas to the Strategic Air and Space Museum near Ashland, where it is set to be restored and go on display beginning November 14, 2009.

Originally delivered to NASA's Johnson Space Center in December 1996, the X-38 (V-132) mockup was the second drop test model built for the agency by Scaled Composites. Based on the design of the earlier developed X-24A lifting body, V-132 completed three parafoil and parachute-assisted flights between March 1999 and March 2000 after being dropped from a Dryden Flight Research Center B-52 Stratofortress over Edwards Air Force Base.


V-132 during its second flight on July 9, 1999. Credit: NASA

V-132's third and final free flight was the highest, fastest, and longest X-38 drop test in the program's history. Released at an altitude of 39,000 feet, the mockup flew freely for 45 seconds, reaching a speed of over 500 miles per hour before deploying its parachutes for a landing on Rogers Dry Lakebed in California.

Measuring 28.5 feet (8.9m) long by 14.5 feet (4.4m) wide, and weighing approximately 16,000 pounds, the mockup nearly matched the dimensions of the planned X-38 CRV, though was a few feet short. In addition to its parachutes, it was equipped with a nitrogen gas-operated attitude control system and a bank of batteries for internal power.


V-132 approaches its first landing on March 5, 1999. Credit: NASA

The V-132 was shelved after development of the X-38 CRV was cancelled due to budget cuts in 2002.

The truck transporting the V-132 made a stopover in Nebraska City, where Lt. Governor Rick Sheehy and Nebraska City Mayor Jack Hobbie welcomed the craft to the state with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The mockup spent a couple of hours on display before resuming its trip to Ashland, arriving early Saturday afternoon at the museum's restoration facility.

Adorned with temporary sponsorship logos for its interstate trip, plans call for V-132's original flight markings to be restored prior to it going on public display.

Jay Chladek, Nebraska-based author of the upcoming "Stations in the Sky" (Univ. of Nebraska Press), contributed to this report.

V-132 arrives in Nebraska on October 31, 2009. Click on photos to enlarge.


Credit: Jay Chladek

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-02-2009 12:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Addendum: Hidden treasure

As the below photo reveals, V-132 was marked at its top by the Jolly Roger.

According to Paul Spana, Space Center Houston's exhibits manager, the skull and cross bones was the chosen mark of the X-38 avionics team, who believed they had left the symbol in a place out of public view.

Their plan was foiled though as soon as they saw the video taken from the B-52 of the drop tests: the classic pirate flag could be clearly seen as the vehicle dropped away.

The idea for the Jolly Roger can be traced back to X-38 project manager John Muratore, who earlier led a self-titled "pirate team" to develop a low-cost spacecraft control room using personal computers at Johnson Space Center.


Credit: Jay Chladek

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-04-2009 10:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The other X-38 drop test mockup, V-131 (modified to be V-131R), is on exhibit at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.


Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-12-2009 05:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The third X-38 test craft, V-201, was still being assembled when the program was canceled in 2002.

Unlike V-131 and V-132 though, V-201 was being built to fly into orbit inside the payload bay of space shuttle Columbia for an unmanned test flight back to Earth. According to NASA:

Its inner compartment, representing the crew area, was to be a pressurized aluminum chamber. A composite fuselage structure was to enclose the chamber and the exterior surfaces were to be covered with a Thermal Protection System (TPS) to withstand the heat generated by air friction as the vehicle returned to Earth through the atmosphere.

The TPS was to be similar to materials used on the space shuttles, but much more durable - carbon and metallic-silica tiles for the hottest regions, and flexible blanket-like material for areas receiving less heat during atmospheric reentry.


X-38 V-201 inside Hangar X in 2002. Credit: NASA
Its assembly at Johnson Space Center halted, V-201 was displayed for a time inside Hangar X, the former facility used for X-38 development and was visible by tourists visiting the space center. But as that building transitioned to support the Constellation Program and specifically the development of the Altair lunar lander, V-201 was moved outside, protected by a tarp.

Today, it sits outside the Media Resource Center (Building 423) at Johnson Space Center with no immediate plans for it to be moved.

V-201 sits outside at Johnson Space Center. Click on photos to enlarge.


Credit: collectSPACE

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