This aircraft represents the Martin (now Lockheed Martin) X-24A, which the U.S. Air Force and NASA flew to study flight characteristics and maneuverability of “lifting bodies.” A lifting body is a fixed-wing air or spacecraft -- such as the space shuttle -- in which the body itself produces lift. The X-24A paved the way for the space shuttle by showing that a lifting body could glide through the atmosphere and land on Earth like an airplane.
X-24 flights focused on the last stage of re-entry from space, with pilots flying lifting bodies at speeds of around 1,000 mph and altitudes of around 70,000 feet. Smaller unmanned vehicles with similar shapes conducted tests at higher speeds and altitudes.
The X-24A made 12 gliding tests in 1969 and 1970, dropped from a NASA modified B-52. Twenty-eight powered flights followed in 1970 and 1971. Flights typically lasted under eight minutes, with a 2.5 minute rocket burn followed by a 5 minute glide to landing. One of the last X-24A flights simulated a space shuttle landing approach from about 71,400 feet, and another featured the aircraft reaching Mach 1.6, its fastest speed.
The aircraft on display was originally the jet-powered Martin SV-5J, a derivative of the X-24A built for flight training. It was never flown. For display purposes, the SV-5J has been modified to represent the X-24A. Martin donated it to the museum in 1971. In 1973 the actual X-24A was converted into the X-24B on display.
Engines: One Reaction Motors XLR-11 rocket of 8,000 lbs. thrust; two Bell LLRV optional landing rockets of 400 lbs. thrust each
Maximum speed: 1,218 mph (Mach 1.6)
Ceiling: 71,407 feet
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