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Report: Air Force may revive X-33
Posted: Fri, Apr 13, 2001, 10:58 AM ET (1458 GMT)
X-33 illustration The Air Force is considering funding continued development of the X-33 as a prototype for a military space plane, the Washington Post reported Friday. The newspaper reported that Lockheed Martin officials were in contact with the Air Force within days of the NASA decision last month not to provide additional funding to the X-33 program. Under one proposal being considered, NASA and Lockheed Martin would provide a total of $15 million to keep the program alive through the end of this fiscal year, at which point the Air Force would decide whether to allocate additional funding to complete the X-33 vehicle and run it through a series of flight tests. Completing the X-33 would cost an estimated $400 million according to the report, and a program to build several full-scale space planes, like Lockheed Martin's VentureStar concept, would cost $3-7 billion over 13 years — less than the price of a new bomber program. Such vehicles could be used to deliver warheads anywhere on the planet from bases in the United States and return within 90 minutes; the warheads may not need to contain explosives of any kind, relying instead on the high kinetic energy that payloads falling from space could generate. The Post also reported that NASA and Lockheed Martin were still negotiating a termination agreement for the X-33 program, with the intellectual property rights of the technology developed during the program a major sticking point. Those negotiations should be wrapped up in one to two months, a NASA official said.
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