NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Flight without wings. NASA's M2-F3 lifting body research aircraft launching from a B52 aircraft, in flight and landing. The M2-F3 was one of a line of lifting body vehicles built by NASA to study the aerodynamics of space re-entry vehicles. The fuselage shape enabled lift to be generated without wings. The M2-F3 first flew on 2 June 1970, the aircraft being released at high altitude by a converted B-52 bomber. The top speed achieved during the programme was 1702 kilometres per hour, the highest altitude reached was 23,000 metres. Lifting body aircraft had short, bulbous or curved fuselages and featured minimal wings or were wingless, features that aided re-entry from space. Despite its success, NASA cancelled the lifting body design in favour of the delta wing during early Space Shuttle development.
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