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Experimental Aircraft

Research aircraft are the tools for exploration and discovery. Each is instrumented to acquire data about the aircraft, its systems and even the surrounding environment during research flights. These are typically flown by the Air Force in conjunction with NASA and conducted in a very methodical fashion to answer largely theoretical questions concerning innovative aircraft design principles.

Experimental Aircraft Overview
Research aircraft are the tools for exploration and discovery. Each is instrumented to acquire data about the aircraft, its systems and even the surrounding environment during research flights.

Reports of the existence of a successor to the SR-71 surfaced repeatedly during the debate over termination of the SR-71. Subsequent observations of mysterious aerial phenomena have been connected with the 1988 reports that Aurora was a Mach 6 stealthy reconnaissance aircraft that was being developed to replace the SR-71.

The multi-phased program was conducted from 1984 to 1992 and provided an engineering data base that is available in the design and development of future aircraft.

X-30 National Aerospace Plane
There is also the possiblity that the SR-71 follow-on was hidden in plain sight. The program to develop what is called the National Aerospace Plane (NASP), designated the X-30, had its roots in a highly classified, Special Access Required, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project called Copper Canyon, which ran from 1982 to 1985.

X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability Demonstrator
The X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability (EFM) demonstrator, flown at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., provided information which is invaluable for proceeding with the designs of the next generation highly maneuverable fighters.

X-32 Joint Strike Fighter
The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a multi-role fighter optimized for the air-to-ground role, designed to affordably meet the needs of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allies, with improved survivability, precision engagement capability, the mobility necessary for future joint operations and the reduced life cycle costs associated with tomorrow’s fiscal environment.

X-33 VentureStar
The Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Technology Program is a partnership between NASA and industry to design a new generation of launch vehicles expected to dramatically lower the costs of putting payloads in space.

The objective of the X-34 program is flight demonstration of key reusable launch vehicle operations and technologies directed at the reusable launch vehicle goals of low-cost space access and commercial space launch competitiveness.

McDonnell Douglas and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have developed a tailless research aircraft that could dramatically change the design of future stealthy fighters. Named the X-36, the vehicle has no vertical or horizontal tails and uses new split ailerons to provide yaw (left and right) and pitch (up and down) directional control.

X-37 Future X (concept)
NASA is considering asking for funding for an X-37 flight test vehicle. This will provide the agency has a sustainable research and technology program in space transportation.

As of early 1999, the X-39 designator is apparenty unassigned, but it is reported to be reserved for use by the Air Force Research Laboratory. The designation may be intended for subscale unmanned demonstrators planned under the Future Aircraft Technology Enhancements (FATE) program.

X-40 Space Maneuver Vehicle (concept)
Industry sources are being sought to develop critical technologies for future military spaceplanes using ground based advanced technology demonstrations.

X-41 Common Aero Vehicle
The X-41 involves an experimental maneuverable re-entry vehicle carrying a variety of payloads through a suborbital trajectory, and re-entering and dispersing the payload in the atmosphere.

X-42 Pop-Up Upper Stage
The X-42 is an experimental expendable liquid rocket motor upper stage designed to boost 2000-4000lb payloads into orbit.

X-43 Hyper-X Program
NASA has established a multi-year experimental hypersonic ground and flight test program called Hyper-X. The program seeks to demonstrate "air-breathing" engine technologies that promise to increase payload capacity or reduce vehicle size for the same payload for future hypersonic aircraft and/or reusable space launch vehicles.

X-45 Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle
The objective of the joint DARPA/Air Force Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) program is to demonstrate the technical feasibility for a UCAV system to effectively and affordably prosecute 21st century lethal strike missions within the emerging global command and control architecture.

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