Published March 14, 2016
Restoration staff move the Martin X-24B into the new fourth building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Oct. 14, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
Martin X-24B in the Space Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on December 28, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Dayton, Ohio -- The Martin X-24A and Martin X-24B in the Space Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
DAYTON, Ohio -- Martin X-24B at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The X-24B aircraft showed that a “lifting body” could glide through the atmosphere and make a precise landing on a runway like an airplane. A lifting body is a fixed-wing air or spacecraft in which the body itself produces lift. X-24 studies supported space shuttle development in the early 1970s. The U.S. Air Force, NASA and Martin Aircraft (now Lockheed Martin) heavily modified the X-24A to make a higher-performing vehicle, the X-24B.
The X-24B’s flat bottom and long nose added surface area to improve gliding qualities, increasing range and maneuverability. It flew 36 times between 1973 and 1975, making 12 gliding-only flights and 24 powered flights with gliding landings. In all its flights, a NASA modified B-52 “mothership” launched the X-24B at 45,000 feet.
In powered flights, a rocket engine accelerated the X-24B to more than 1,000 mph as it climbed to altitudes around 60,000-70,000 feet. The X-24B then made steep unpowered gliding landings like the future space shuttle. Highlights of the X-24B research program included two precise landings made on a concrete runway at Edwards AFB, Calif. (other flights landed on nearby dry lake beds). This ability to glide to a landing at a specific spot was an important step toward later space shuttle operations. The X-24B was the last joint USAF/NASA rocket-powered air-launched research aircraft.
Engines: One Reaction Motors XLR-11 rocket of 9,800 lbs. thrust; two Bell LLRV optional landing rockets of 500 lbs. thrust each
Maximum speed: 1,164 mph (Mach 1.76)
Ceiling: 74,100 feet
Click here to return to the Space Gallery.
Please note Springfield Street, the road that leads to the museum’s entrance, is undergoing construction through the beginning of September. Expect lane reductions and some delays. Please follow the signs and instructions provided by the road crews.
Additional information about our COVID precautions available here
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is located at:
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB OH 45433
(near Dayton, Ohio)