Wired has more about the X-34s from Dave Huntsman, an engineer with NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, who spearheaded the effort to pull the hypersonic vehicles out of storage:
â€œThe real idea didnâ€™t come from me, or my Dryden buddies, or from Orbital Sciences who built them [the X-34s],â€ Huntsman wrote. â€œIt came during a week in October 2009, simultaneously, at a workshop in Dayton, Ohio (where the Air Force Research Lab is based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base), from two different entrepreneurial space companies.â€
With Obamaâ€™s February decision to privatize space exploration, the annual workshop â€” jointly hosted by NASA and the Air Force on behalf of Americaâ€™s space companies â€” reflected what Huntsman called a â€œparadigm shiftâ€ for U.S. space exploration. This year, NASA and the Air Force let the entrepreneurs take the lead in discussions. In separate, closed-door meetings, reps from two different companies asked Huntsman about the X-34sâ€™ status. â€œMost of us didnâ€™t even know the X-34s still existed, since it had been years since program cancellation,â€ the engineer mused.
Propelled by industryâ€™s interest, Huntsman placed a few calls and located the X-34s on the bombing range. Sensing the renewed interest, in January the Air Force voluntarily towed the X-34s off the range, pictured â€” a tedious, weeks-long undertaking complicated by mud and distance. To pay for inspections, Huntsman and a growing band of allies counted on a phenomenon unique to government budget cycles.
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