American X-Vehicles: An Inventory-X-1 to X-50 by Dennis R Jenkins, Tony Landis, Jay Miller

By Dennis R Jenkins, Tony Landis, Jay Miller

For some time, it appeared the sequence of experimental plane subsidized through the U.S. govt had run its path. among the past due Nineteen Forties and the overdue Seventies, virtually thirty designations were allotted to airplane intended to discover new flight regimes or untried applied sciences. Then, mostly, it ended. yet there has been a resurgence within the mid- to overdue- Nineties, and as we input the fourth yr of the hot millennia, the designations are as much as X-50.

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The X-24A was used in project PILOT (piloted low-speed tests). The rocket-powered X-24A was specif­ ically designed to explore the low-speed flight characteristics of a maneuverable lifting-body design. The design was essentially identical to the SV-5D used in project PRIME as the X-23A, allowing both ends of the flight spectrum to be tested on the same shape. The X-24A decisively demonstrated that lifting-bodies could consistently make pre­ cision landings onto a hard runway, proving the concept for the future Space Shuttle.

American X-Vehicles: An Inventory X-1 to X-50 49 X-40A The Boeing Company First Flight: 11 August 1998 Sponsors: USAF, NASA Last Flight: 18 May 2001 Fastest Flight: 300 mph (approx) Total Flights: 8 Highest Flight: 15,000 feet (approx) The X-40A landing after Free Flight 4A on 5 May 2001. (NASA photo EC01-0145-12 by Tom Tschida) The X-40A was an 80-percent scale version of a proposed Space Maneuver Vehicle (SMV) that has become the X-37. The SMV was designed to deliver small satellites, perform on-orbit reconnaissance, and other duties.

The aircraft was shipped to NAS Patuxent River in April 2000, where it was largely rebuilt for the Vector (Vectoring Extremely Short Take-Off and Landing Control Tailless Operation Research) program. The revised aircraft made its first flight for Vector on 24 February 2001. After two months of basic flight testing, the aircraft began a year of upgrading and ground testing to ready it for the current flight test period, in which it will perform ESTOL landings to a “virtual runway” at 5,000 feet.

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