1997-10-01

X-34: A Prelude to a Military Space Plane 975629

The Military Space Plane program represents a major paradigm shift in the way spacecraft and launch vehicles are designed and operated. Now in its formative stages, the Military Space Plane, or MSP, strives for operational goals that blur the distinction between traditional spacecraft, launch vehicles and aircraft both from an operability and design standpoint. The X-34 rocket plane being built by Orbital at its Dulles, Virginia facility, represents a reusable technology testbed for evaluating new developments in launch vehicle subsystems and quick turnaround operations. These aspects of Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) design and operation are critical to achieving an MSP capability early in the 21st century. This paper will review potential objectives being developed by the Air Force for the MSP program, the evolution of the X-34 vehicle, the role of X-34 in furthering RLV technology and finally how X-34 can be utilized as it matures for evaluating additional MSP technology and operations issues.

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