Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Martin-Marietta X-23A PRIME (Precision Reentry Including Maneuvering reEntry) was a small lifting body re-entry vehicle tested by the United States Air Force in the mid-1960s. Unlike ASSET , primarily used for structural and heating research, the X-23 PRIME was developed to study the effects of maneuvering re-entry, including cross range maneuvers up to 710 miles (1143 km) off the ballistic track.
Each X-23 was constructed from 2014-T6 Titanium alloy, and beryllium, stainless steel, and aluminium "where appropriate". The craft consisted of two sections - the aft main structure and a removable forward "glove section". The structure was completely covered with a Martin-developed ablative heat shield 20 to 70 mm (0.8 to 2.75 inches) thick, though the nose cap was constructed of Carbon-Phenolic .
Aerodynamic control was provided by a pair of 12-inch (30 cm) square lower flaps, and fixed upper flaps and rudders. A nitrogen gas reaction control system was used outside the atmosphere. At Mach 2 a drogue ballute deployed and slowed the vehicle's descent. As it deployed, its cable sliced the upper structure of the main equipment bay, allowing a 47-foot (16.4 m) recovery chute to deploy. It would then be recovered by a specially-equipped JC-130B Hercules.
The first PRIME vehicle was launched from Vandenberg AFB on 21 December 1966 atop an Atlas launch vehicle. This mission simulated a low-earth orbit reentry with a zero cross-range. The ballute deployed at 99,850 feet (30.43 km), though the recovery parachute failed to completely deploy. The vehicle crashed into the Pacific.
The second was launched on 5 March 1967. This flight simulated a 654-mile (1053 km) cross range re-entry, and banking at hypersonic speeds. Several stringers on the main parachute failed to cut, preventing a successful recovery. It too was lost in the Pacific.
The final PRIME mission was flown on 19 April 1967, and simulated reentry from low-earth orbit with a 710 mile (1143 km) cross-range. This time, all systems performed perfectly, and the X-23 was successfully recovered. An inspection by a USAF-Martin team reported the craft "ready to fly again", although no later mission was carried out. The third X-23 is now on display at the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson Ohio.
- Crew: None
- Length: 6 ft 9 in (2.07 m)
- Wingspan: 3 ft 10 in (1.16 m)
- Height: 2 ft 1 in (0.64 m)
- Wing area: ft² ( m²)
- Empty: lb (kg)
- Loaded: 890 lb (405 kg)
- Maximum take-off: lb (kg)
- Powerplant: Nitrogen-gas reaction control thrusters
- Maximum speed: "Mach 25"
- Maximum cross-range: 710 miles (1,143 km)
- Hypersonic L/D Ratio: 1:1
Comparable aircraft: Molniya BOR-4
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