How NASA’s X-34 ended up rotting in someone’s backyard


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Link here. The story is a wonderful illustration of the epic failure that NASA has represented for the past thirty years. They spent billions, and threw it all away before even one flight.

How the two partly built X-34 spacecraft ended up in someone’s backyard is fascinating in itself, and worth the read.

One detail the article misses is why the X-34 got cancelled in 2001: politics. This program was part of a range of space initiatives under the Clinton administration (including the X-33). All were overpriced and essentially boondoggles. When George Bush Jr. became president, his administration reviewed them all and junked them, replacing them with his own boondoggles (Constellation and Orion).

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5 comments

  • Michael

    I’ve worked on three NASA or Air Force easy access to space projects. The stages of these programs are as follows:

    1. New program that will assure quick and easy access to space at drastically lowered cost.

    2. Program is downgraded to an experimental effort to decrease cost of launch vehicles

    3. Program is downgraded to a technology investigation for items that may be of future use

    4. Program is cancelled.

    5. Everyone goes to lunch

  • Orion314

    NASA , a political whore of the 1st magnitude. They charge top dollar,and , like any good hooker, they
    “always get the money up front” Their flag should be the hammer & sickle. not the stars & bars….

  • Orion314

    or , old glory….

  • Col Beausabre

    Michael, The Seven Phases of Project Management

    1. Wild enthusiasm

    2. Disillusionment

    3. Confusion

    4. Panic

    5. Search for the guilty

    6. Punishment of the innocent

    7. Promotion of non-participants

    First seen on a bulletin board early in my Army days (Seventies) and I’d be willing to bet it goes back at least to the Fifties if not before….which brings up

    Cheops Law – No government project ever comes in under budget and on schedule

    (Actually one did, the Pentagon (Yes, Really!) mainly because it was run by an absolute SOB of a colonel named Leslie Groves – next stop for him was two stars and the Manhattan Project (which was the second most expensive US Army project in WW2))

  • Dick Eagleson

    Sad story but not atypical of government bungling, unfortunately.

    The picture that shows the two X-34’s parked across an apron from some other aircraft also shows one of those aircraft – the arrowhead-shaped one – to probably be one of only 2 F-16XL’s ever built. This was a modified F-16 with a stretched fuselage and a so-called cranked-arrow delta wing. This wing gave the F-16 a supersonic cruise capability without afterburner and roughly doubled its combat radius. It was also alleged to be even more nimble than the standard F-16. The project was a late-70’s early-80’s effort to build a multi-role F-16 that could compete with the then-also-in-development F-15 Strike Eagle. The F-16XL lost that competition. The prototypes have been at Edwards ever since. Looks like we now know where at least one of them was in 2015. The other planes around the F-16XL appear to be full or partial F-18 airframes. One hopes the F-16XL’s don’t eventually suffer the same ignominious fate as the X-34’s.

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