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The X-33 is one of the NASA/Air Force (doesn't necessarily need to be a joint project) "X-Planes," the Prefix "X" means that it is an experiment Air/Space craft. "X" doesn't mean prototype, "Y" is the prefix for prototype. The X-33 is one of the offical "X-Planes" which was to experiment with Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) technology. The X-33 wasn't necessary for the VentureStar to be produced.