Jim Cast Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1779

)

June 25, 1999

Leslie A. Mathews Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA (Phone: 661/258-3893) Dominic Amatore Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL (Phone: 256/544-0031) Barron Beneski Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, VA (Phone: 703/406-5000) RELEASE: 99-73 X-34 ROCKET PLANE TAKES TO THE SKY AS PART OF SAFETY CHECK Locked to the belly of its newly modified L-1011 carrier aircraft, a test version of NASA's X-34 rocket plane is scheduled to make its first flight next week. The prototype of the robotic spacecraft will test new technologies and methods of operations needed to develop low-cost reusable space vehicles. The first flight will begin at approximately 11 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 29, from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA. In this series of flights, the L-1011 and X-34 maneuvers will include a simulated launch flight. This captive-carry flight, in which the aircraft and test vehicle remain combined, will check for potentially hazardous conditions that may have resulted from modifications made to the L-1011 to enable it to carry the X-34. When powered flights of the X-34 begin later this year, the experimental vehicle will be carried aloft by the L-1011, then released for rocket-powered flight and a standard horizontal landing. Eventually, the X-34 will perform highspeed suborbital free flights to demonstrate technologies such as advanced thermal protection system, composite structural components and autonomous landing. The operational program is designed to demonstrate that

reusable launch vehicles can be more reliable, fly more often and in worse conditions than current vehicles using a smaller operations team. This captive-carry flight is the first of several tests that will be conducted as part of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification process for the mated vehicles. When a commercial airplane like the L-1011 is altered, the FAA must certify that the changes have not adversely affected the plane's safe operation. The unpiloted X-34 is a single-engine rocket plane that will fly itself with onboard computers. It measures approximately 58 feet long, 11 feet tall and 28 feet across the wings. It will be powered by the new Fastrac engine, designed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, which also manages the X-34 program for NASA. Dryden Flight Research Center is supporting the captivecarry part of the program with flight testing and ground vibration tests. In 1996, NASA awarded Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, VA, a contract now worth $85.7 million to design, build and test fly the X-34. The contract includes a structural test vehicle for vibration and captive carry flights and two flight vehicles. Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, VA owns the L-1011, which also launches the company's Pegasus Launch Vehicle. - end Note to Editors/News Directors: NASA Television will carry live coverage of the June 29 flight during the noon EDT NASA Video File. Video showing the mating of the L-1011 with the X-34 and a walk around the mated vehicles with an explanation of modifications made to the L-1011 will be included in the coverage. NASA Television may be accessed via satellite GE-2, transponder 9C, at 85 degrees west longitude, with vertical polarization. Frequency is on 3880.0 megahertz, with audio on 6.8 megahertz. For press accreditation at the Dryden Flight Research Center please contact Leslie Mathews (phone: 805/258-3893; fax: 805/258-3566) or send e-mail to:

leslie.mathews@dfrc.nasa.gov For more information on the Advanced Space Transportation Program, visit its Web site: http://stp.msfc.nasa.gov