This page no longer updated from 31 October 2001. Latest version can be found at Dynasoar

B-52 overflies X-20
B-52 overflies X-20
B-52 overflies Dynasoar after first drop test.

Credit: © Dan Roam. 40,366 bytes. 565 x 411 pixels.

Other Designations: X-20. Class: Manned. Type: Spaceplane. Nation: USA. Manufacturer: Boeing.

The X-20 Dynasoar (Dynamic Soaring) was a single-pilot manned spaceplane, really the earliest American manned space project to result in fabrication of hardware. It evolved from the German Sanger-Bredt Silverbird intercontinental skip-glide rocket bomber. Dornberger, former head of Peendmuende, was at Bell Aircraft in the 1950's and developed the Sanger-Bredt concept through various iterations (BOMI and HYFLEX). In typical Pentagon fashion the final development contract went instead to Boeing. It went through many confusing incarnations and changes in purpose (manned space bomber, reconnaisance platform, high speed test vehicle), with the launch vehicles at various times including Titan I, Titan II, Saturn I, and finally Titan IIIC. Cancellation on December 10 1963 came only eight months before drop tests from a B-52 and a first manned flight in 1964.

X-20 / Titan 1X-20 / Titan 1

Credit: Lockheed-Martin. 20,237 bytes. 411 x 309 pixels.

The Dynasoar itself would have been developed into Dynasoar II, III, and Dyna-MOWS (Manned Orbital Weapons System) versions which would have run the gamut of orbital supply, rendezvous and inspection, and orbital bombing. The basic single pilot X-20A Dynasoar had a limited internal payload and volume (450 kg in a payload bay behind the cockpit, enough for another crew member or used for military/scientific payloads).

After its cancellation, the Air Force pursued futher development of manned spaceplanes through the PRIME, ASSET, X-23, and X-24 programs, with suborbital launch of subscale lifting body designs and B-52 drop tests of the X-24A and X-24B lifting body designs into the mid-1970's. Reportedly there was also a black program leading to suborbital flight and reentry of a full-size unmanned lifting body patterned after the NASA HL-10. In the end, the Air Force was pressured by the Nixon Administration to accept participation in the space shuttle program in lieu of separate development of their own designs.

X-20 DynasoarX-20 Dynasoar - X-20 Dynasoar at sunrise

Credit: © Mark Wade. 23,270 bytes. 482 x 419 pixels.


Craft.Crew Size: 1. Total Length: 14.5 m. Maximum Diameter: 3.0 m. Total Habitable Volume: 3.50 m3. Total Mass: 10,125 kg. Total Payload: 450 kg. Total Propellants: 2,690 kg. Primary Engine Thrust: 7,260 kgf. Total spacecraft delta v: 900 m/s.

Dynasoar Chronology

15 December 1933 Rakatenflugtechnik published.

X-20 3 ViewX-20 3 View

Credit: © Mark Wade. 9,029 bytes. 713 x 549 pixels.

Eugen Sänger of Germany published his classic Rakatenflugtechnic, which dealt with rocket motor design and high-speed flight in the atmosphere.
01 October 1956 X-15 follow-on work begun.

NACA scientists initiated examination of the need for a follow-on manned-rocket research vehicle to the X-15, following ARDC inquiries concerning a boost-glide vehicle.

19 October 1956 Follow-on to the X-15.

NACA scientists were engaged in preliminary studies of the need for a follow-on, manned-rocket research vehicle to the X-15.

11 November 1956 Follow-on to the X-15 project discussed.

Personnel of the Air Research and Development Command approached NACA officials on the possible cooperation of NACA in a research airplane project as a follow-on to the X-15 project. NACA agreed to consider the plan and directed its laboratories to initiate feasibility studies relative to the range of speed for the proposed vehicle and an estimate of the time frame in which the vehicle could be developed.

X-20 cockpitX-20 cockpit - View of the X-20 cockpit. In addition to single crew member, payload bay behind cockpit could have accepted additional crew member or 450 kg military/scientific payload.

Credit: © Dan Roam. 42,722 bytes. 541 x 372 pixels.

14 February 1957 X-15 follow-on studied.

NACA established "Round Three" Steering Committee to study feasiblity of a hypersonic boost-glide research airplane. "Round Three" was considered as the third major flight research program which started with the X-series of rocket-propelled supersonic research airplanes, and which considered the X-15 research airplane as the second major program. The boost-glide program eventually became known as DynaSoar.

20 June 1957 Two NACA groups focused their efforts on the problems involved in manned space flight.

One group concerned themselves with performance of aircraft at high speeds and altitudes and with rocket research; the other group, with problems associated with hypersonic flight and reentry.

14 October 1957 Dynasoar selected as X-15 follow-on.

USAF and NACA reviewed preliminary studies dating from 1954 on a boost-glide research vehicle to follow the X-15; all studies were combined into a single plan which was accepted by the Air Force and later designated as Dyna-Soar.

Titan 3 LV with X-20Titan 3 LV with X-20 - The original mission of the Titan 3 booster was to launch the X-20 Dynasoar manned spaceplane into orbit.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 5,194 bytes. 164 x 715 pixels.

15 October 1957 X-20 Dyna Soar conference.

A 'Round 3' conference involving studies for a follow-on to the X-15 program, which subsequently led to the X-20 Dyna Soar, was held at the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory. During the course of the meeting, Alfred J. Eggers, Jr., of Ames advanced several proposals for possible manned satellite vehicle development projects.

18 March 1958 NACA Conference on High-Speed Aerodynamics

An 'NACA Conference on High-Speed Aerodynamics' was held at the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, Moffett Field, California, to acquaint the military services and industrial contractors interested in aerospace projects with the results of recent research conducted by the NACA laboratories on the subject of space flight. The conference was attended by more than 500 representatives from the NACA, industry, the military services, and other appropriate government agencies. Some 46 technical papers were presented by NACA personnel, and included specific proposals for manned space flight vehicle projects. One of these was presented by Maxime A. Faget. Other papers within the category of manned orbital satellites included: 'Preliminary Studies of Manned Satellites, Wingless Configuration, Lifting Body' by Thomas J. Wong and others; 'Preliminary Studies of Manned Satellites, Winged Configurations' by John V. Becker; 'Preliminary Aerodynamic Data Pertinent to Manned Satellite Reentry Configurations' by Jim A. Penland and William O. Armstrong; and 'Structural Design Considerations for Boost-Glide and Orbital Reentry Vehicles' by William A. Brooks and others.

X-20 DynasoarX-20 Dynasoar - X-20 Dynasoar in reentry configuration

Credit: © Dan Roam. 29,305 bytes. 565 x 264 pixels.

20 May 1958 NACA / Air Force Memorandum of Understanding on the DynaSoar I.

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and the Air Force signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the principles in the development and testing of the Air Force's Hypersonic Boost Glide Vehicle (Dyna Soar I). The following principles would apply to the project: (1) The project would be conducted as a joint Air Force-NACA project. (2) Overall technical control of the project would rest with the Air Force, acting with the advice and assistance of NACA. (3) Financing of the design, construction, and Air Force test of the vehicles would be borne by the Air Force. (4) Management of the project would be conducted by an Air Force project office within the Directorate of Systems Management, Headquarters, Air Research and Development Command. NACA would provide liaison representation in the project office and provide the chairman of the technical team responsible for data transmission and research instrumentation. (5) Design and construction of the system would be conducted through a negotiated prime contractor. (6) Flight tests of the vehicle and related equipment would be accomplished by NACA, the USAF, and the prime contractor in a combined test program, under the overall control of a joint NACA-USAF committee chaired by the Air Force.

X-20 Early ConceptX-20 Early Concept

Credit: Aerojet. 57,583 bytes. 493 x 388 pixels.

01 June 1958 Feasibility studies of Dynasoar

Boeing and Martin selected to conduct feasibility studies on Dynasoar.

16 June 1958 Dynasoar Phase I contracts. Launch Vehicle: Titan 2.

Phase I development contract for Dyna-Soar boost-glide orbital spacecraft awarded by USAF to two teams of contractors headed by Martin Co. (Bell, American Machine & Foundry, Bendix, Goodyear, and Minneapolis-Honeywell) and the Boeing Co. (Aerojet, General Electric, Ramo-Wooldridge, North American, and Chance Vought).

09 November 1959 Contractors selected for Dynasoar and Titan I Launch Vehicle: Titan 1.

Boeing and Martin selected by USAF to develop Dynasoar and Titan I launch vehicle.

25 April 1960 USAF authorizes FSD of Dynasoar
27 April 1960 Dynasoar passes first design review.

Completion of technical review of Dyna-Soar program announced by the Air Force.

X-20A / Titan 1X-20A / Titan 1

Credit: USAF. 24,905 bytes. 183 x 527 pixels.

26 December 1960 First segmented solid motor test. Launch Vehicle: Titan 3C.

Successful firing of a solid-propellant rocket motor using "building block" method was announced by NASA.

13 January 1961 USAF changes Dynasoar launch vehicle to Titan II Launch Vehicle: Titan 2.
28 March 1961 USAF/NASA Dynasoar review.

USAF Dyna-Soar System Project Office personnel visited NASA headquarters for review of technical and management programs.

28 April 1961 Dynasoar launch by Saturn I studied. Launch Vehicle: Saturn I.

Final NASA report on the study proposed for Saturn for use as Dyna-Soar booster was presented to the Air Force.

05 August 1961 Solid motor segment test. Launch Vehicle: Titan 3C.

Segmented solid-propellent rocket engine fired by United Technology Corp. at Sunnyvale, generating over 200,000 pounds of thrust in 80-second firing. Developed under NASA contract, center section of engine contained over 55,000 pounds of propellant, the largest single piece yet manufactured in the United States.

X-20A / Titan 1X-20A / Titan 1

Credit: USAF. 22,336 bytes. 252 x 368 pixels.

29 September 1961 Dynasoar contracts issued.

USAF awarded three contracts for speeding development of the Dyna-Soar, a manned orbital space glider. Receiving contracts were Boeing Co. for development of the glider and related systems, Radio Corp. of America for communications and tracking devices, and Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co. for the guidance system.

27 October 1961 Dynasoar accelerated.

Secretary of Defense McNamara announced that progress of the Administration's accelerated defense buildup made unnecessary the use of additional defense funds appropriate by the Congress above the amount requested by the administration. The Congress had voted $514.5 million for additional long-range bombers; $180 million additional for the B-70; and $85.8 million additional for Dyna-Soar.

09 December 1961 First test of UTC 1205 rocket motors. Launch Vehicle: Titan 3C.

Solid-propellent rocket motor generating nearly 500,000 pounds of thrust was fired in a static test of 80-second duration by United Technology Corp. at Sunnyvale, Calif., under USAF contract.

26 December 1961 Dynasoar suborbital tests deleted from program. Launch Vehicle: Titan 2.

Development time schedule for Dyna-Soar was reduced when DOD authorized the USAF to move directly from B-52 drop tests to unmanned and then manned orbital flights. This eliminated the previous interim stage of suborbital flights to be powered by the Titan II. This required renegotiation of the development contract held by the Martin Co. and negotiating of a new contract for a larger booster.

28 December 1961 USAF announces Titan III for Dynasoar Launch Vehicle: Titan 3C.

With continued weight growth USAF announces Titan III to be developed for Dynasoar orbital missions.

19 September 1962 USAF announces six pilots selected for Dynasoar
10 December 1963 Cancellation of the X-20 DynaSoar project.

Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara announced cancellation of the X-20 Dyna Soar project at a news briefing at the Pentagon. McNamara stated that fiscal resources thereby saved would be channeled into broader research on the problems and potential value of manned military operations in space, chiefly the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) project. These decisions on the X-20 and MOL had been discussed and coordinated with NASA, and, although the Air Force received responsibility for the MOL project, NASA would continue to provide technical support.

22 July 1964 ASSET 3 Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Delta C.

Suborbital test of subscale model of X-20 Dynasoar. Aero-thermodynamic structural test vehicle (ASV) for heat shield tests. Launched after four hours of holds. Tested Dynasoar hardware - tungsten nose cap, molbdenum panels with vapor-deposited disilicide, and liquid-cooled double-walled cockpit bathtub panel. Reached 5,500 m/s and recovered near Ascension Island 12 hours after launch.

01 May 1965 Planned air drop tests of Dynasoar to begin

At the time the Dynasoar project was cancelled, completion of the first spacecraft was planned for summer 1964. Air-drop tests from a B-52 carrier aircraft were planned to begin in May 1965. Twenty such drop tests would be conducted up to the first orbital flight in July 1966.

01 January 1966 Dynasoar 1

Prior to cancellation of the Dynasoar project, the first unmanned flight was planned for the fourth flight test of the Titan 3C booster.

01 April 1966 Dynasoar 2

Prior to cancellation of the Dynasoar project, the second unmanned flight was planned for the fifth flight test of the Titan 3C booster.

01 July 1966 Dynasoar 3 Flight Crew: Wood.

At the time the Dynasoar project was cancelled, the first manned single-orbit flight was planned for July 1966, atop the sixth Titan 3C. Jim Wood would have flown the first manned Dyna-Soar -- he was the senior test pilot on the project, and Hank Gordon told Michael Cassutt years ago that there was no question he was going to get the first flight. (The Dyna-Soar office was structured like a typical Edwards flight test program, where there really was a lead or senior project pilot). The other five X-20 pilots in active training at the end of the program were Crews, Gordon, Knight, Rogers, and Thompson.

01 October 1966 Dynasoar 4

An additional manned Dynasoar single-orbit flight was possible in late 1966, atop the seventh Titan 3C.

01 March 1967 Dynasoar 5

An additional manned Dynasoar single-orbit flight was possible in early 1967, atop the eighth Titan 3C.

01 October 1967 Dynasoar 6

The first multi-orbit flight of the X-20 was planned for late 1967 atop the ninth Titan 3C at the time the program was cancelled.


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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .