FLORIDA--Software Glitch Shuts Down X-33 Engine Testing

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread


Software glitch shuts down X-33 engine testing

By Robyn Suriano FLORIDA TODAY

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - An engine for the troubled X-33 test launch vehicle shut down prematurely last week during testing, but officials said Tuesday that an easily correctable software problem is to blame.

The so-called aerospike engine is meant to power the half-sized X-33 that is a precursor to Lockheed Martin Corp.'s planned Venture-Star spaceship.

The X-33 engine shut itself off 75 seconds into a 220-second test March 9 at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Miss. It was the 10th test of the engine, which ran full duration in its nine previous firings.

The glitch was caused by a software problem that is being fixed, said Don Chenevert, acting project manager for X-33 testing at Stennis. Another test could be run as early as the end of this week, he said.

"This was a minor software glitch, and we expect to have that glitch fixed in a day or two," Chenevert said. "We don't expect any problems on the next test at all. We have been very fortunate on this (engine) program overall."

The engine is critical for the new vehicles that Lockheed Martin is developing with help from NASA, which someday could use the full-sized VentureStar to ferry cargo and humans to its International Space Station.

But the X-33's development has been marred by more serious problems, such as the failure last year of its fuel tank during testing.

Lockheed Martin is expected to release a full report on the fuel tank problem later this month.

Because of that problem, it is unclear when the X-33 will make its first test flight, which was targeted for July but has been delayed.

The half-sized vehicle is to make suborbital missions to prove the technology for its VentureStar successor.

If built, VentureStar is to revolutionize spaceflight by hoisting cargo and people into orbit in a single stage.

With the powerful aerospike engine propelling the ship, Venture-Star won't need the solid booster rockets or external fuel tank that NASA's shuttles rely upon.

"There's a lot of advantages to it," Chenevert said. "It's critical."

Last week's shutdown occurred when the X-33 engine was being powered down rapidly for the first time. The engine is being developed by Boeing Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power of Canoga Park, Calif.

copyright ) 2000 FLORIDA TODAY. http://www.flatoday.com/space/explore/stories/2000a/031500x33.htm

-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 15, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ