...While NASA And Rutan Test Space Drone
And while others dream of fast airplanes, a test bed for future innovations in that direction took flight in a unique collaboration between government and the private sector in Mojave, Calif., Tuesday. As AVweb told you last month, NASA and one of its most high-profile critics, Burt Rutan, have teamed up (along with the Defense Department and Boeing) to test the X-37 space drone. Those tests took flight on Tuesday as Rutan's White Knight, the mothership for SpaceShipOne in last October's successful completion of the Ansari X Prize competition, carried the X-37 aloft for the first time. The mated pair had been running up and down the runways at Mojave for weeks in preparation for the first flight, which appears to have gone off without a hitch. Drop tests of the unpiloted plane are expected later this summer. The X-37 is to be used to study re-entry and approach of suborbital and orbital spacecraft and the data will help in the design of vehicles that could be used to repair satellites and do other odd jobs in space as well as for the creation of future reusable spacecraft. There will be a break in the test schedule, however. White Knight and SpaceShipOne are due at EAA AirVenture the week of July 25.