Space Access Update #69  7/31/96 
                 Copyright 1996 by Space Access Society 

This just in.  The DC-XA "Clipper Graham" suffered a significant post-
landing fire today.  As far as we know, the scheduled two minute twenty 
second flight test went fine.  Preliminary word is that one landing gear 
leg failed to extend, causing the vehicle to fall on its side after 
touching down.  The vehicle then caught fire.  We have no details on how 
long the fire burned before the fire crew could approach the pad, or how 
extensive damage is. 

(We now have confirmation of all of the above from White Sands Missile 
Range.  NASA Select TV should be carrying a press conference with more 
details at 3:30 pm MDT.) 

Our best guess is that vehicle damage will be extensive, but that parts of 
the vehicle, in particular the engines, may be salvageable.  

Our read on the significance of this to the practicality or otherwise of 
the DC-X vertical-landing configuration is, no significance.  Landing 
gears get stuck occasionally on all sorts of aircraft; gear-up landings 
often lead to severe damage or destruction of the aircraft involved.  The 
main lesson to be drawn is, build more than one copy of your X-vehicle.  
(A secondary lesson might be to change landing hardware and/or procedures 
to try to keep the vehicle upright in the event of a stuck landing leg...) 

Our recommendation for what action to take is, take the funds that have 
been identified for extended DC-XA flight test (recently officially 
approved) and for a possible start on a DC-XB upgrade aeroshell, salvage 
what's salvageable from the DC-XA, and begin work on DC-XB immediately. 

More on all this when we know more. 

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