This page no longer updated from 31 October 2001.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

HL-10 Lifting Body
HL-10 Lifting Body - HL-10 Lifting Body with B-52 and Test Pilot Dana

Credit: NASA. 23,185 bytes. 412 x 302 pixels.

Program: NASA Lifting Body. Objective: Manned. Type: Spaceplane.

NASA's Ames Research Center and Langley had promoted the idea of 'lifting bodies', rounded half-cones, for use as manned recoverable spacecraft. These provided lift for maneuver and recovery at an airfield after re-entry from orbit. The original M2-F1 was a plywood glider towed from pickup trucks and C-47 transports as part of an 'in house' NASA Edwards project in 1963. Results were encouraging, and NASA contracted Northrop to build, at cut-rate prices, two rocket-powered lifting bodies that would be air-dropped from a B-52 bomber to explore the handling qualities of the two competing configurations. The M2-F2 was a 'flying bathtub' with a rounded belly / flat top layout. The M2-F2 crashed on 10 May 1967, seriously injuring the test pilot (the footage became familiar to millions when it was used in the opening credits of the television series 'The Six Million Dollar Man'). The crashed M2-F2 was rebuilt as the M2-F3 with enlarged vertical stabilizers. Maximum speed achieved was Mach 1.6, top altitude 21,800 m. The final X-30 National Aerospace Plane configuration seemed to owe much to the M2.

The HL-10, with a flat bottom and rounded dorsal body, was the favored lifting body configuration of NASA Langley. It reached Mach 1.86 and 27,700 m during its flight test. This configuration was found to be the best of the lifting bodies, and it was used in several of the orbiter proposals in NASA's Phase A and Phase B shuttle design studies. It is also very similar to the winning X-33 configuration proposed by the Lockheed. Purportedly an unmanned test vehicle of this design was tested at orbital speeds by the US Air Force in a black Lockheed Skunk Work's project, possibly on two Titan 3B / Agena D launches in 1972. Major Events: .

Back to Index
Last update 12 March 2001.
Contact Mark Wade with any corrections or comments.
Conditions for use of drawings, pictures, or other materials from this site..
© Mark Wade, 2001 .