Academic journal article Air Power History

History Mystery

Academic journal article Air Power History

History Mystery

Article excerpt

The "What is it?" aircraft in our last issue was the Martin Marietta X-24A lifting body.

From 1963 to 1975, eight lifting body vehicles were flown in a joint Air Force-NASA effort at Edwards Air Force Base, California. They varied from the bulbous, unpowered, plywood M2-F1 to the final version of our mystery plane, the needle-nosed, rocket-powered, supersonic X-24B. These were viewed as proof-of-concept vehicles for a future spacecraft that would land like an airplane after surviving the searing heat of reentry from space. The lifting bodies contributed enormously to the technology of the space shuttle orbiter vehicle.

On its web site, the National Museum of the Air Force explains this seemingly futuristic and unusual craft: "The X-24A ... was designed to investigate flight characteristics within the atmosphere from high altitude supersonic speeds to landing, and to prove the feasibility of using lifting bodies for return from space," says the Museum's web site. The X-24 was a wingless aerospacecraft, which derived lift from its body contours and aerodynamic control surfaces.

As an experimental X-craft, the X-24A tested the concept of a craft that could be launched into space by rocket boosters to ferry crews to space stations. …

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