EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE — NASA successfully completed the fifth flight test of its unmanned X-40A on Tuesday, dropping the prototype reusable spacecraft from a helicopter in a 75-second fall to Earth.
An Army helicopter dropped the X-40A at 6:50 a.m. from approximately 15,000 feet above the Mojave Desert. National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineers watched as the stubby-winged spacecraft performed several maneuvers before landing safely.
The X-40A is an unpowered, 85 percent scale version of the X-37, an experimental re-entry vehicle that NASA plans to launch aboard space shuttles in 2003.
The Boeing Co.-built X-40A is 22 feet long and has a 12-foot wingspan. It weighs about 2,600 pounds.
NASA will use the data collected during seven X-40A flight and landing tests to perfect the design of the X-37 before its first flight. The sixth X-40A test has been tentatively scheduled for Friday.
On the Net: http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Projects/X40A/home.html