The X-40A immediately after release from its harness suspended from a helicopter 15,000 feet above NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on March 14, 2001.
The unpiloted X-40 is a risk-reduction vehicle for the X-37, which is intended to be a reusable space vehicle.
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala, manages the X-37 project. At Dryden, the X-40A will undergo a series of ground and air tests to reduce possible risks to the larger X-37, including drop tests from a helicopter to check guidance and navigation systems planned for use in the X-37. The X-37 is designed to demonstrate technologies in the orbital and reentry environments for next-generation reusable launch vehicles that will increase both safety and reliability, while reducing launch costs from $10,000 per pound to $1,000 per pound.