Vehicles, or RLV's, are space vehicles designed to perform
RLV's, due to the fact
that they are re-used, will dramatically reduce the cost of access
to low earth orbit. However, the technical challenges of
designing a system to fly to orbit and return are
monumental. For example,
the entire Saturn V rocket was expended while sending humans to
the Moon. On the other hand, the Space Shuttle, which
transports astronauts to Low Earth Orbit and back, is reused over
and over again.
A number of government
research projects, most notably the X-33, X-34, X-37 and X-38,
were initiated to develop and test new RLV technologies to reduce
the risk of developing a next generation RLV. At the same
time, a number of entrepreneurial companies have developed their
own RLV concepts in an effort to reduce launch costs and undercut
established launch vehicle providers.
This section provides
an overview of the RLV vehicles and technology demonstrators -
both past and present.