NASA Selects Future-X Flight Demonstrator & Experiments

December 08, 1998

NASA has selected The Boeing Company of Downey, Calif., for negotiations leading to possible award of a four-year cooperative agreement to develop the first in a continuous series of advanced technology flight demonstrators called "Future-X." Total value of the cooperative agreement, including NASA and Boeing contributions, is estimated at $150 million, with an approximate 50/50 sharing arrangement. Work under the cooperative agreement will begin immediately depending on successful negotiations. Pending results of these negotiations, alternative designs are available for NASA selection.

In addition, three companies and three NASA Centers were selected for seven Future-X flight experiments with a total estimated value of $24 million. The Future-X effort will be managed by the Space Transportation Programs Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Future-X vehicles and flight experiments will demonstrate technologies that improve performance and reduce development, production and operating costs of future Earth-to-orbit and in-space transportation systems. Technologies tested through Future-X will help industry and NASA develop and build future generations of space launch vehicles that are more advanced and cheaper than previous vehicles.

Under the cooperative agreement Boeing and NASA would advance 29 separate space transportation technologies through development and flight demonstrations of a modular orbital flight testbed called the Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV). The ATV would be the first experimental vehicle to be flown in both orbital and reentry environments.

"The cutting-edge technologies to be demonstrated through Future-X are aimed at increasing U.S. competitiveness in the worldwide commercial space transportation market and decreasing future government costs for space access," said Frederick Bachtel, manager of the Space Transportation Programs Office at the Marshall Center. "I believe we're turning the key that opens the door to affordable space transportation."

NASA is pursuing technologies that will benefit both military and commercial aerospace. Specifically, the Air Force has identified the critical technology and operations demonstrations that support their reusability requirements. Future-X accomplishes many of these demonstrations. "NASA has worked closely with the U.S. Air Force in seeking high-payoff technologies that maximize U.S. opportunities to reduce the cost of space transportation," said Bachtel.

The three companies selected to provide flight experiments are Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio, Texas; Draper Laboratory of Cambridge, Mass.; and AeroAstro of Herndon, Va. The three NASA Centers selected to provide Future-X flight experiments are Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.; Lewis Research Center of Cleveland, Ohio; and Marshall Space Flight Center. Ames was selected to provide two experiments.

Selected industry-led experiments include: a half-effect thruster system flight demonstration of new onboard in-space propulsion technologies by Southwestern Research, estimated at $2.5 million; an experiment to demonstrate an onboard intelligence planning system for autonomous abort landings by Draper, estimated at $740,000; and an experiment to demonstrate technologies that will significantly reduce the access-to-space costs of small payloads by AeroAstro, estimated at $800,000.

Selected NASA-led experiments with substantial industry involvement include: Ames-led experiments to demonstrate advanced technologies of an integrated-vehicle health-management system, and to demonstrate ultra-high temperature ceramics for reusable, sharp hypersonic leading edges, estimated at $4.5 million and $4.2 million respectively; a Lewis-led experiment to demonstrate propulsion technologies that will reduce the weight and size of advanced cryogenic upper stages, estimated at $4.3 million; and a Marshall-led experiment to demonstrate advanced propellantless in-space propulsion technologies through an electrodynamic tether which works as a thruster, estimated at $6.6 million.

The companies and NASA Centers were selected to provide the flight demonstrator and flight experiments from a total of 50 proposals submitted in response to NASA Research Announcement 8-22.
Note to Editors: Interviews and photos supporting this release are available to media representatives by contacting June Malone of the Marshall Media Relations Office at 256-544-0034. For an electronic version of this release, visit Marshall's News Center on the Web at:

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

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