NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Flight without wings. An X-24B lifting body is launched from beneath its B-52 carrier aircraft. A white plume of venting fuel is seen behind the X-24B just before ignition of its rocket motor. The X-24B was the last in 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-24B first flew on 1 August 1973, and was retired on 23 September 1975. After release at 15,350 metres, the X-24B could reach altitudes of 29,200 metres and speeds of 1860 kilometres per hour (Mach 1.76).
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