In July of 1999 two linear aerospike rocket engines will power the first flight of NASA's X-33 advanced technology demonstrator. A successful X-33 flight test program will validate the aerospike nozzle concept, a key technical feature of Lockheed Martin's VentureStar(trademark) reusable launch vehicle. The aerospike received serious consideration for NASA's current space shuttle, but was eventually rejected in 1969 in favor of high chamber pressure bell engines, in part because of perceived technical risk. The aerospike engine (discussed below) has several performance advantages over conventional bell engines. However, these performance advantages are difficult to validate by ground test. The space shuttle, a multibillion dollar program intended to provide all of NASA's future space lift could not afford the gamble of choosing a potentially superior though unproven aerospike engine over a conventional bell engine. The X-33 demonstrator provides an opportunity to prove the aerospike's performance advantage in flight before commiting to an operational vehicle.