John Muratore, professor in Aviation Systems at the University of Tennessee Space Institute, was a part of a feature article in the Air & Space Smithsonian Magazine for March 2010.
Muratore, a former NASA employee, was the program manager for the X-38-V132 project, based at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas during the period 1998-2002. Flight Test Engineer for the X-38 was future astronaut, Michael E. Fossum.
Created as an alternative and emergency means of bringing up to seven International Space station (ISS) crewmembers back to earth, the X-38 was designed to fit in the payload bay of the shuttle. The X-38 would have served as a lifeboat in the event the station had to be evacuated or it would have served as an ambulance in case someone was gravely injured on the station. The battery system would last approximately nine hours and be used for power and life support.
The CRV had a parafoil parachute which deployed in four stages to slow and stabilize the vehicle for a safer landing.
As a partner in the X-38 project, the European Space Agency was looking at modifying the shape of the CRV into a crew transfer vehicle to fly people up to and back from the space station.
The project was within eighteen months and $50 million of being launched into space on its first test flight when NASA cancelled the funding. The program had performed 8 atmospheric tests of the vehicle, dropping from the wing of a NASA’s B-52 at the Dryden Flight Research Center.
In October 2009, the X-38 V-132 Crew Recovery Vehicle (CRV) was sent to the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska, on permanent loan. It was welcomed by a high school band, a mayor, and a lieutenant governor.
Muratore says “Our plan was to derive a version to put on [the European launcher] Ariane 5 – that’s why we modified the shape. We’d have had an alternative access to the station.”
Mr. Muratore said that “sooner or later, we’re going to have to build another rescue vehicle…especially as space evolves more toward commercial operations, there’s going to be a need for rescue.”