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Space History Photo: X-38 Ship #2 in Free Flight

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During a July 1999 test flight, the X-38 descends under its steerable parachute. (Image credit: NASA | Tony Landis.)

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, the X-38, a research vehicle built to help develop technology for an emergency Crew Return Vehicle (CRV), descends under its steerable parachute during a July 1999 test flight at the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. It was the fourth free flight of the test vehicles in the X-38 program, and the second free flight test of Vehicle 132 or Ship 2.

The goal of this flight was to release the vehicle from a higher altitude (31,500 feet) and to fly the vehicle longer (31 seconds) than any previous X-38 vehicle had yet flown. The project team also conducted aerodynamic verification maneuvers and checked improvements made to the drogue parachute.

The X-38 Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) research project is designed to develop the technology for a prototype emergency crew return vehicle, or lifeboat, for the International Space Station. The project is also intended to develop a crew return vehicle design that could be modified for other uses, such as a joint U.S. and international human spacecraft that could be launched on the French Ariane-5 Booster. The X-38 project is using available technology and off-the- shelf equipment to significantly decrease development costs.

Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the U.S. government agency in charge of the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Founded in 1958, NASA is a civilian space agency aimed at exploring the universe with space telescopes,  satellites, robotic spacecraft, astronauts and more. The space agency has 10 major centers based across the U.S. and launches robotic and crewed missions from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida. It's astronaut corps is based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. To follow NASA's latest mission, follow the space agency on Twitter or any other social channel, of visit: nasa.gov