The shifting emphasis in the X-Plane program to preparing for space flight continued with a series of aircraft known as "lifting bodies," a term that refers to more or less wingless planes that get their lift from the fuselage itself. Harbingers of the space shuttles, the lifting bodies were used to study how a similarly designed vehicle might re-enter Earth's atmosphere from space and then maneuver like an aircraft to a landing site.
Shown here are, from the left, the X-24A (which flew from 1969 to 1971), the M2-F3 (from 1970 to 1972), and the HL-10 (from 1966 to 1970). Altogether, the half-dozen different lifting bodies flew 223 times from 1963 to 1975, not counting some 400 flights made by the M2-F1 alone while being towed by a Pontiac Catalina convertible on the ground.
June 21, 2010 9:58 AM PDT
Photo by: NASA
| Caption by: Jonathan Skillings
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