Friday, November 6, 2009

X-38 On the Move

The Field Guide welcomes the X-38 to its data base. The X-38 would have been the precursor for the Crew Return Vehicle, a stubby winged spacecraft that would have been parked at the International Space Station and used as an orbital lifeboat in case of an emergency. Based on the earlier X-24 lifting body created by the US Air Force (even including the bulbous cockpit canopy - it was easier to use the same wind tunnel data as the X-24), it would carry seven crew members back into the atmosphere, then deploy the largest canopy parachute ever tested to land on skids at a predetermined location.

Though cancelled in April of 2002, three test vehicles were created: two for drop tests and one for an orbital reentry test. The one pictured above, V-132, was dropped from a B-52 for several tests at Edwards Air Force Base. This past week it made its way to the Strategic Air Command Museum, Ashland, NE, for display. It is a reminder of what could have been - a safe elegant way to protect astronauts in an emergency.

Check out the the rest of the fleet on the Field Guide.

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