13 thoughts on “The DC-X Anniversary”

  1. I was living in Organ NM at the time and often heard them testing the engines in the morning. Its sad, so much potential, destroyed and derailed by NASA.

    Yes, the sooner NASA is put out of its misery, the sooner humans will settle the Solar System.

  2. A missed opportunity if I ever saw one. The idea of reusing avionics from the F-15 and RL-10 engines for propulsion was sheer brilliance which enabled the construction of a working prototype in record time. I prefer base first reentry VTVLs but I can understand the requirement since this was to provide service to the BMDO. Unfortunately just because this was not funded all the way through to DC-Y and Delta Clipper there are still many naysayers who think it is impossible to make a useable SSTO. It would take someone to invest in large expander cycle engines to get this to work at a large enough scale. I wonder what could be done today with the SNECMA Vinci engine which was twice the thrust of RL-10, or the Japanese LE-5A using the same approach. I guess we will never know.

    Perhaps if the Japanese LE-X rocket gets funded will we see interested in large reusable expander cycle launch vehicles again.

    1. Nose first reentry seems to have the advantage for aerodynamics. Tail first seems to have the advantage for stable weight distribution and tail sitter landing. Plug nozzles may be useful for tail first, but are an immature tech.

      Expander cycle engines just don’t work well on large engines. Not enough surface area for the fuel to absorb heat from the engine through.

  3. If only NASA had chosen the DC-X2 for its X-33, we may have found out some of these answers. Sigh.

    1. Now you know they couldn’t do that. A successful DC-Y would have spelled the end of their monopoly on HSF. That is why they had to go with the design least likely to succeed, to show everyone that SSTO is impossible.

  4. Cheer up, fans of the DC-X. Elon is testing a kerosene-fueled version of the DC-X with a reusable first stage Falcon 9 v1.1 … only he doesn’t know it yet.

    Bob Clark 😉

  5. Imagine where we’d be if NASA had spent even 10% of what they’ve thrown away on VentureStar and SLS on DC-X instead.

  6. The real cost is in the “upper stage.” Arthur Schnitt, the Big Dumb Booster advocate commented that with the Thor Agena (launcher for Corona/Discoverer, a “black”photo recon system way ahead of its time in capabilities and launch rate and 3-axis stabilization and on-orbit engine restart), the big Thor booster was far cheaper than the little bitty Agena that sat on top.

    Instead of a fly-back booster as the first reusable element, how about go for an upper stage?

    How about a “far upper stage”, namely, some kind of Space Tug, which was supposed to be an element of he original Shuttle plan along with a Space Station? That is, a reusable/refuelable aero-braking transfer stage? Along with the tech to “tank it” in low-Earth orbit? And the tech to have it grapple or mate to a variety of payloads?

    Getting back to Corona/Discoverer, that Agena was one capable upper stage (a 3-axis stabilized spacecraft, actually), with pioneering on-orbit restart, and this was in the early days. Could we advance the zero-G liquids handling tech to routine on-orbit tanking?

    Low Earth Orbit is after Heinlen or whoever “halfway to anywhere.” Well, it is only halfway. Maybe concentrating on the upper half of the journey to anywhere would have a bigger payoff than the Great White Whale of launch to LEO?

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