NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Flight without wings. An X-24A lifting body is launched from beneath its B-52 carrier aircraft. A white plume of venting fuel is seen behind the X- 24A just before ignition of its rocket motor. The X-24A was one of a line of lifting body research aircraft produced by the US. These gained aerodynamic lift from the shape of the fuselage, rather than from wings. All were used to show that a re-entering spacecraft could be flown to a precise landing, much as the Space Shuttle does today. The X-24A first flew on 17 April 1969, and was retired on 4 June 1971. After release at 15,350 metres, the X-24A could reach an altitude of 28,000 metres & speeds of 1650 km/h (Mach 1.6).
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