The first of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s two X-56A remotely piloted testbed aircraft crashed during a test flight at Edwards AFB, Calif., base officials stated in a release. The Lockheed-Martin built Multi-Utility Technology Testbed (MUTT) aircraft, built to explore technology for combating aerodynamic flutter and gust-loading, crashed on Rogers Dry Lakebed shortly after take?off Nov. 19. The RPA was “severely” damaged but caused no injury or property damage, according to the release. AFRL spokesman Daryl Mayer told Air Force Magazine that “Fido,” the first X-56A launched in 2013, was the airframe involved in the incident. The RPA flew a total of 16 sorties, logging approximately six hours flying time before the accident, and was joined by a second X-56 testbed dubbed “Buckeye” earlier this year. Officials initiated a crash investigation and are evaluating lessons from the incident before taking further action.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.