Rockwell X-33 and RLV


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5 April 2006
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Rockwell's entry into the X-33 competition was by far the most conventional, and was to be a half-scale demonstrator of a full-scale SSTO.

More info in the first issue of the new APR at:


  • Rockwell X-33 RLV.jpg
    Rockwell X-33 RLV.jpg
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More images of the Rockwell International contender for the X-33 competition can be found in Jay Miller's X-Planes: X-1 to X-45 and X-Planes Scrapbook, but also at the following links:

The Rockwell design surely looks like the STS Space Shuttle system except that the fuselage is longer. There was one proposal for a V-tail Rockwell International design for the X-33 contest.
The Rockwell X-33 concept was the most logical and credible one of the contenders, since it was based on real world Space Shuttle experience. If you look at the "evolution" of the competing Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas designs, the Lockheed "Aeroballistic Rocket" over time started sprouting sizeable wings with winglets that belied the "lifting body" qualities, and both aerodynamic surface and body surface per (squashed instead of circular/cylindrical) body volume grew higher than that of a classical wing body design, while the "ballistic" son of DC-X all of a sudden needed wing "stubs" for reentry as well - a phenomenon that magically reappeared on Musk's BFR/Starship/whatever as well. As they say, quality never goes out of style...
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If I am not mistaken, the 'stubs' were added as a fuel saving measure while maintaining landing precision and cross range ability. The added redundancy in case of partial propulsion/manoeuvring failure was a handy bonus, especially when it came to the latter attribute. Which leads us to another probable major reason for their addition. Thanks to it's inherent ability to relocate itself between geographically separated landing and launch sites via suborbital hops, interest began to mount in the possibility of using the planned full sized Delta Clipper as not only a SSTO but also as an honest to God suborbital transport for passengers and cargo. So the redundant control ability would have helped to assuage potential FAA concerns.
Another rendition of aborted future from Hazegrayart. In picking between Lockheed/Venture Star and McDonnell Douglas/DCX, it would have been useful to have had a clause stipulating IR&D commitment to underwrite alternative solutions to any technical snags during development. I am not hopeful of Boeing persevering beyond government funding when it comes to the XS-1 and perhaps even reaching the launch pad.

Nice to see he show his heat tiles to the ISS,very usefull afther the Columbia disaster

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