The DC-X Single-Stage-to-Orbit (SSTO) demonstration vehicle was constructed by McDonnell Douglas in Huntington Beach, California. It's purpose was to show the feasibility of vertical take-off-and-landing for a future generation of space launchers.

Flight Test series


Phase One

1. August 18, 1993

2. September 11, 1993

3. September 30, 1993


Phase Two

4. June 20, 1994

5. June 27, 1994


Phase Three

6. May 16, 1995

7. Jun 12, 1995

8. July 7, 1995


Phase Four (DC-XA)

9. May 18, 1996

10. June 7, 1996

11. June 8, 1996

12. July 31, 1996

Jun 27, 1994: Flight 5

Hydrogen vented prior to engine ignition surrounded the DC-X. When the engines lit, so did the hydrogen, blowing a hole in the side of the vehicle. The DC-X landed safely.

The "good" side of the DC-X after flight 5.

DC-X undergoes reconstruction in the MacDac Huntington Beach facility.

The newly reconstructed DC-XA rolls out of the hangar in California. Note that all the markings, except the black roll markings and gray nose strakes, painted on for this rollout were removed prior to flight. Similar markings for the initial rollout disintegrated at ignition on the very first flight on August 8, 1993.

Close-up of the nose cap area of the Delta Clipper Experimental.

Technicians swarm around the base of the DC-X at White Sands. The protubrances for the rocket nozzles can be seen above the flame deflectors, as well as the dark gray landing pads in their stowed positions.

Close-up of one of the four landing pads in its stowed position prior to launch.

Underside of DC-X sitting on its launch pad. I'm laying in one of the flame deflectors to get the shot. Here you can see the engine nozzle covers and the shuttle-type heat tiles that form a square between the four nozzle openings.

Detail shot of the launch pad for the DC-X with the four hold down posts and four flame deflectors.

The Delta Clipper Experimental Advanced (DC-XA) sits on the launch stand ready for flight. The area used for the launches was near the runway where the Space Shuttle Columbia landed following STS-3 on March 30, 1982.

Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad was one of the principles behind the DC-X program. Here Pete is monitoring vehicle status from the control trailer prior to flight.