X-40A test vehicle's third free flight successful
Posted: April 27, 2001

The X-40A vehicle successfully performed a third free flight test Thursday at Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif. The X-40A was lifted by an Army Chinook helicopter to an altitude of 14,975 feet (4564 meters) and released at 7:33 a.m. PDT, reaching a speed of about 430 feet (131 meters) per second to complete the test when the wheels rolled to a stop at 7:35 a.m. PDT.

File image from second test flight of X-40A being released from the strongback. Both are attached by tether line to the CH-47. Photo: NASA-DFRC
"I'm very pleased with the near flawless performance of the X-40A," said Susan Turner, NASA's X-37 program manager at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "This is our third successful flight test of the vehicle, and each one enables us to better understand the systems that later will guide the flight of the X-37. This test program has been a team effort that all the partners can be very proud of."

The X-40A's free flight and landing tests are being conducted as part of NASA's X-37 program, intended to reduce the risk of flight testing the X-37 experimental re-entry vehicle. The X-37 will enable NASA to test advanced technologies in the harsh environment of space and in returning through Earth's atmosphere. The X-40A is an 85 percent scale version of the X-37.

Thursday's X-40A test objectives focused on complex maneuvers, such as monitoring vehicle performance during pitch adjustments -- when the nose is raised and lowered. A series of up to seven free flights is planned.

The X-40A test vehicle, on loan from the Air Force, was built for the Air Force by The Boeing Company at its Seal Beach, Calif., facility. It was free flight tested once before, in August 1998 at Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico, for the Air Force's Space Maneuver Vehicle program.

The Marshall Center is NASA's lead center for space transportation systems development, manages the X-37. Dryden Flight Research Center is responsible for the X-37/X-40A flight test activities.