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Boeing Wins $301-Million Contract From NASA to Finish Space Plane

Vehicle will test technology that may lead to a replacement for aging space shuttle.

November 27, 2002|From Associated Press

Hoping to develop technology to replace its aging space shuttles, NASA said Tuesday that it has awarded Boeing Co. a $301-million contract to complete the X-37 space plane.

Boeing Phantom Works said it would complete its X-37 approach and landing test vehicle and conduct flight tests as part of the Space Launch Initiative, a $4.8-billion NASA program.

The plane, 27.5 feet long with a wingspan of 15 feet, is in final assembly at the Boeing Phantom Works X-Vehicle Assembly Facility in Palmdale.

"The X-37 is a technology demonstrator, just proving certain technologies that will ultimately lead to a replacement for the space shuttle," said Bill Cole, a spokesman for Phantom Works, which is based in St. Louis.

With the contract, Boeing will complete the assembly of the unmanned X-37 and conduct a flight test in April 2004.

The contract also initiates a design for another X-37 long-duration orbital vehicle, scheduled to be tested in July 2006.

When fielded, the unmanned and autonomously operated X-37 will be the only X-vehicle capable of conducting continuous on-orbit operations for as long as 21 days.

The vehicle also will serve as a test bed for approximately 30 airframe, propulsion and operation technologies, such as a high-temperature thermal protection system.

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