X-38 ‘Crew Return Vehicle’ Test Flight

Fifteen years ago yesterday — March 12, 1998 — NASA conducted the first “drop test” of the X-38 at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB.

(The X-38 drops away from NASA’s B-52. NASA image from Wikimedia Commons.)

The X-38 program developed a series of prototype “lifeboats” for the International Space Station. The Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) would have been

an emergency vehicle to return up to seven International Space Station (ISS) crewmembers to Earth. It [would] be carried to the space station in the cargo bay of a space shuttle and attached to a docking port. If an emergency arose that forced the ISS crew to leave the space station, the CRV would be undocked and – after a deorbit engine burn – the vehicle would return to Earth much like a space shuttle.

The X-38 program was cancelled in 2002.

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