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graphic
        The first flight test was
         conducted March 12, 1998

  

Space station 'lifeboat' passes second flight test

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The first prototype of the International Space Station's crew return vehicle had a successful second flight Saturday in California, NASA said.

Released by a B-52 bomber at 7,500 meters (23,000 feet), the unmanned, seven-ton X-38 ship touched down on the runway after gliding under a parafoil, said NASA spokesman Fred Brown.

INTERACTIVE:

X-38

How the X-38 returns to Earth

The flight lasted 12 minutes and was "perfect," Brown said.

The X-38 project is designed to prepare an orbital "lifeboat" that will allow six people to evacuate the space station in case of an emergency.

The future vessel will return to Earth like the space shuttle, with no engine but using a parafoil. It will have skids instead of wheels.

It will be the first new human spacecraft to travel to-and-from orbit in 20 years.

Atmospheric drop tests of the X-38 will continue for the next two years using three increasingly complex test vehicles and higher altitudes, NASA said.

For the first test from space, scheduled for 2000, an unpiloted version will be deployed from the space shuttle and descend to a landing.

The X-38 is slated to begin operations aboard the International Space Station in 2003.

In the early years of the space station, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft will be attached to the station as a crew return vehicle.

But as the size of the station crew increases, a return vehicle that can accommodate up to seven passengers eventually will be needed, NASA said.



RELATED STORIES:
Space station lifeboat
January 19, 1999
Prototype space station 'lifeboat' passes first test
March 12, 1998
The View from Space: of Mars and men
March 11, 1998

RELATED SITES:
Dryden Flight Research Center
International Space Station -- official NASA site providing an overview of the Space Station Program
International Space Station Reference Site
International Space Station Gallery
ISSA Factbook - online version of the official International Space Station Fact Book
Brazilian Space Agency
Canadian Space Agency
European Space Agency (ESA)
National Space Development Agency of Japan
Russian Space Agency
Russian Space Agency - homepage of the RSA through the NASA site
Russian Space Research Institute(IKI)
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