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Past Projects - Lifting Bodies
September 1, 2009


X-24A on lakebed


The X-24A was built by Martin Aircraft Company, Maryland, for the U.S. Air Force. The X-24A was a bulbous vehicle with three vertical fins at the rear for directional control. The vehicle's shape has been likened to a "finned potato." It weighed 6,270 pounds, was 24.5 feet long and 11.5 feet wide (measuring just the fuselage, not the distance between the tips of the outboard fins). Its first unpowered glide flight was on April 17, 1969, with Air Force Maj. Jerauld Gentry at the controls. Gentry also piloted its first powered flight on March 19, 1970.

The X-24A was flown 28 times, and validated the concept that a Space Shuttle vehicle could be landed unpowered. The fastest speed achieved by the X-24A was 1,036 miles per hour (mph-Mach 1.6). Its maximum altitude was 71,400 feet. It was powered by an XLR-11 rocket engine with a maximum theoretical vacuum thrust of 8,480 pounds.


X-24B in flight above lakebed

The X-24B was built around the fuselage of the original X-24A. The bulbous shape of the X-24A was converted into a "flying flatiron" with a rounded top, flat bottom, and double delta platform that ended in a pointed nose. The X-24B demonstrated that accurate unpowered reentry vehicle landings were operationally feasible. Top speed achieved by the X-24B was 1,164 mph and the highest altitude it reached was 74,130 feet. The vehicle is on display at the Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The pilot on the last powered flight of the X-24B was Bill Dana, who also flew the last X-15 flight about seven years earlier.

The X-24B is on public display at the Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.


To learn more about the Lifting Bodies see the following publications.

  • Testing the Lifting Bodies at Edwards
  • Wingless Flight

Related Links

Fact Sheet Photos X-24A Movies X-24A Graphics X-24B Movies X-24B Graphics
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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator