Press Release

Wings for X-37 Spaceplane Shipped to Palmdale Final Assembly Facility

By SpaceRef Editor
February 7, 2002
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The Boeing Co.
(NYSE: BA) today announced that it recently completed the composite
wings for the X-37 reusable spaceplane at its Huntington Beach,
Calif., facility and delivered them to the High Desert Assembly
Integration & Test facility in Palmdale, Calif.

The wings of this next-generation Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV)
technology demonstrator are now co-located with the fuselage, produced
by the Boeing Phantom Works prototyping center in St. Louis.

“This is the type of significant milestone we get excited about,”
said Ron Prosser, vice president of Advanced Space & Communications
for Boeing Phantom Works. “The delivery of the wings indicates we are
on track and one step closer to getting an autonomous RLV demonstrator
built, flying and demonstrating new technologies for making space
transportation significantly safer, more reliable and more affordable
than is possible today.”

“The completion of the wings finishes one of the many complex
tasks in building a Reuseable Launch Vehicle (RLV) technology
demonstrator,” said Jeff Sexton, NASA’s X-37 program manager at
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “Advancing RLV
technology from the research environment to the real world of
manufacturing, assembly and flight testing comes with great
challenges. The manufacture and assembly of the wings are no
exception,” he added.

Marshall Space Flight Center’s 2nd Generation RLV Program manages
the NASA-wide Space Launch Initiative (SLI) which is developing cost
effective and safety enhanced alternatives for accessing space. The
X-37 program manager commented: “I am proud of the X-37 team and their
commitment in clearing another hurdle. Many more challenges are ahead
of us as we pursue the goals of the SLI program to demonstrate 2nd
Generation RLV technologies. Accomplishments like this are a
motivation to the entire SLI team.”

The complex wings were produced by a Phantom Works composite
development team at Huntington Beach using sophisticated, highly
controlled machining and bonding processes. When attached to the 27.5
ft.-long X-37 fuselage, the wings will have a span of 15 feet.

The fuselage is constructed of Graphite Bismaleimide (GrBMI),
which is a high temperature composite ideally suited for reusable
vehicles returning from orbit. GrBMI operates at 450 degrees F, 100F
higher than the current aluminum structure of the Space Shuttle,
allowing for a thinner and lighter thermal protection system. In
addition, the fuselage is primarily bonded together to minimize
weight.

“Ever since the low altitude flight dynamics of the X-37 were
verified by last year’s seven successful test flights of the sub-scale
X-40A, we’ve been looking forward to the final assembly of major
components,” said Kevin Neifert, director of Next Generation Launch
Systems for Boeing.

“A great team is at work here, and witnessing the main elements of
the X-37 taking shape is very gratifying. The advances in technology
and expertise that we have acquired are directly applicable to the
development of next generation space vehicles. Additionally, X-37 has
strong synergy with our work on NASA’s Space Launch Initiative, a key
program leading to the next generation of crewed, reusable launch
systems.”

During the final assembly process the wings will be mated to the
fuselage this June, with completion of the X-37 targeted for late
2003. The first unpowered drop test from a NASA B-52 is slated for
early 2004 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. NASA and Boeing continue
to discuss plans for boosting X-37 into orbit.

The X-37 government team, led by the NASA Marshall Space Flight
Center, Huntsville, also includes NASA’s Ames Research Center,
Mountain View, Calif.; Kennedy Space Center, Fla.; Goddard Space
Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.;
and Dryden Flight Research Center and the U.S. Air Force Flight Test
Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The Boeing Co. is the largest aerospace company in the world and
the United States’ leading exporter. It is NASA’s largest contractor
and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military
aircraft. The company’s capabilities in aerospace also include
rotorcraft, electronic and defense systems, missiles, rocket engines,
launch vehicles, satellites, and advanced information and
communication systems. The company has an extensive global reach with
customers in 145 countries.

The Phantom Works advanced research and development division
serves as the catalyst of innovation for the Boeing enterprise. By
working together with all the business units, it provides the
innovative, breakthrough technologies they seek to reduce the cycle
time and cost while improving the quality and performance of their
aerospace products and services.

SpaceRef staff editor.