Proportionality: The X-Plane Generation

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In this activity, learners build a 1:140 "scale model" of NASA's X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Technology Demonstrator, and investigate how the model dimensions compare to the real vehicle. The lesson plan includes a pattern for making the model, questions and vocabulary for setting up the activity, and worksheets for aiding the math calculations. Teacher background is provided about the history of the X-33, and the use of scale models in engineering. A video can be downloaded and shown to introduce the X-33, and learners can answer questions from the "Cue Cards" worksheet during the video.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • cue cards, 1 per student
  • patterns for X-33 model (1 sheet per student; photocopy onto heavy paper)
  • folding and assembly instructions
  • Worksheet: Find the Scale Factor (page 18)
  • Three-View Drawing of the X-33 with its full-scale measurements (page 21)
  • IMPORTANT: at least one completed X-33 model for students to use as a reference
  • paper and pencils
  • sharp scissors
  • metric rulers
  • glue
  • calculators
  • graph paper (for drawing the payload box and, optionally, for measuring surface area)
  • Optional: rice, centimeter cubes, or similar material (for measuring volume)
  • Optional: graduated cylinder (for measuring volume in standard units)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Probes, Satellites and Spacecraft
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
    • Number and Operations
      • Multiples and Factors
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Aerospace Engineering
    • Technology
      • Transportation

Informal Categories

  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • NASA


  • Public domain, , 1999