Photos: Not every NASA project gets the green light


X-33; 1996 – 2001; $912 million (NASA share).

Source:  New Scientist

X-33; 1996 – 2001; $912 million (NASA share).

The X-33 was a NASA-Lockheed Martin suborbital technology demonstrator for a reusable rocket that would reach orbit without using multiple stages or dropping fuel tanks. It was intended to be followed by a commercial "single-stage-to-orbit" (SSTO) vehicle, VentureStar. But the X-33 was cancelled due to slipping schedules and performance, rising costs that Lockheed Martin was unwilling to absorb, and a major failure during a test of its composite-material tanks. There was no replacement; NASA has taken the failure of the X-33 as proof that SSTO is not a credible concept. (Illustration: NASA-MSFC)


Facing budget and technical concerns, NASA may abandon the development of its Ares rockets. Here, amateur space historian Henry Spencer looks back at other big NASA projects that never got off the ground.
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