Lockheed Martin's VentureStar - Own Your Own Spacecraft

Farnborough, September 4 -- Micky Blackwell, president and chief operating officer of Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics Sector, gave a program update on the X-33 program to develop a vehicle that Lockheed Martin has now coined VentureStar.

Blackwell refered to the vehicle as a "Gas And Go" aircraft, not a spacecraft. He said that the development of VentureStar will cause people in the next century to no longer that space is the next frontier, but instead say it is "open for business."

The X-33 Phase II development program, awarded to the Lockheed Martin team this summer, calls for a flight demonstration of the design. This phase was jointly funded by $1 billion in U.S. government money and $200 million from the industry team. Phase II runs through 1999.

The Lockheed Martin team is a "virtual company" with AlliedSignal, Rocketdyne, Rohr and Sverdrup playing a role. Lockheed's Skunk Works will take the lead in developing the unique aircraft.

Phase III will put the VentureStar in commercial operation as a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). Phase III will be privately funded through traditional investment vehicles. Jack Gordon, president of Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, estimated Phase III will cost $5 billion.

VentureStar is a pilotless vehicle, meaning passengers will be ferried into orbit without a crew. And while this may take a little adjustment on the part of a traveling public, Gordon likened it to taking a train between terminals at an airport. Perhaps, but at Mach 16 many people may not be comforted by the analogy.

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