Flying Without Wings: The Martin SV-5/X-24 Lifting Bodies

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The Martin Marietta X-24A Lifting Body [IMG: NASA]

With the exception of the Space Shuttle, the high altitude flights of the X-15 and SpaceshipOne, all other human spaceflights have used capsules for reentry followed by descent under parachute. The capsule approach was originally adopted as the quickest way to get humans into space, but even during the 1950s other approaches were being considered – designs that would allow returning spacecraft a greater deal of control during reentry and more accurate landings than the first generation capsules could offer. 

One line of thought centred around a vehicle that could generate lift via the shape of its body alone, a ‘lifting body’, and one of the most effective of the configurations that followed was the Martin SV-5/X-24.
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Taking Star Wars to the Stars: A history of the VTVL Rocket – Part 2

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Part 1: Straight back down to Earth told the story of VTVL Rocket pioneers during the 1960s. In this second part of the story, a new set of circumstances set the stage for the reemergence of VTVL Rocket technology.


A new era of enthusiasm for space took hold under the Reagan Administration during the 1980s. It wasn’t born from a desire to explore new worlds or follow Kennedy’s Apollo era rhetoric, rather the new conservative agenda in America saw space as providing an new frontier for commercial pursuits…
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Space Trucks! Big G and the TKS

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1985 Department of Defence concept shows Buran approaching a Soviet Space Station with 2 TKS and 1 Soyuz craft attached[IMG: US DoD via National Archives]
Towards the end of the 1960’s both the USA and Soviet Union had their eyes firmly on the Moon, but away from the lunar race plans were beginning to take shape for longer duration flights within Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Designs for Space Stations came into focus both for civilian and military purposes and these studies led to a need for a new generation of ships that could perform the logistical roles that would be generated by these orbital outposts.

Here we’ll take a look at two contemporary concepts from that era. They were designed to carry out broadly similar roles, yet one had its feet firmly in the earlier days of the space race, while the other created an enduring legacy that lasts to this day in the biggest space construction of them all, the International Space Station (ISS).
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