X-38 "Space Lifeboat"

Aug 12, 2020

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is proud to have one of NASA's X-38 Crew Return Vehicle on display in our Space Museum. The X-38 was the prototype for a vehicle that could serve as a "lifeboat" and return up to seven astronauts to Earth from the International Space Station, should the need arise. The X-38 program was cancelled in 2002 due to budget cuts.

Article Provided by NASA

The X-38 project began at the Johnson Space Center in early 1995 using data from past lifting-body programs and the U.S. Army's Guided Precision Delivery System tests from Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, AZ. Flight tests began in Yuma using pallets dropped from an aircraft to study and develop the steerable parafoil system.

The project was a series of five prototype research vehicles developing technology to build and operate a space station crew return vehicle (CRV). The wingless CRV, when operational, would have been the first reusable human spacecraft to be built in more than two decades.

In all, two airframes were manufactured. They flew a total of 15 flights between 1997-2001. The X-38 completed four captive flights beneath B-52 0008 during 1997, three in 1998, and then performed its first drop test on March 12, 1998, using a steerable, parafoil parachute. The X-38 successful completed free flights on Feb. 6, Mar. 5, July 9 with two separate vehicles, one with and one without flight control surfaces.

X-38 Safely Steering Home Under Parafoil

The plans were that the X-38 CRV would be an emergency vehicle to return up to seven International Space Station (ISS) crewmembers to Earth. The CRV was to be carried to the space station in the cargo bay of a space shuttle and then 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.

In the end, the X-38 program was cancelled in 2002 due to budget cuts.

Make plans to come out at see NASA's prototype Space Lifeboat!

Read the entire NASA X-38 Fact Sheet

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