NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server

Back to Results
Wingless Flight: The Lifting Body StoryWingless Flight tells the story of the most unusual flying machines ever flown, the lifting bodies. It is my story about my friends and colleagues who committed a significant part of their lives in the 1960s and 1970s to prove that the concept was a viable one for use in spacecraft of the future. This story, filled with drama and adventure, is about the twelve-year period from 1963 to 1975 in which eight different lifting-body configurations flew. It is appropriate for me to write the story, since I was the engineer who first presented the idea of flight-testing the concept to others at the NASA Flight Research Center. Over those twelve years, I experienced the story as it unfolded day by day at that remote NASA facility northeast of los Angeles in the bleak Mojave Desert. Benefits from this effort immediately influenced the design and operational concepts of the winged NASA Shuttle Orbiter. However, the full benefits would not be realized until the 1990s when new spacecraft such as the X-33 and X-38 would fully employ the lifting-body concept. A lifting body is basically a wingless vehicle that flies due to the lift generated by the shape of its fuselage. Although both a lifting reentry vehicle and a ballistic capsule had been considered as options during the early stages of NASA's space program, NASA initially opted to go with the capsule. A number of individuals were not content to close the book on the lifting-body concept. Researchers including Alfred Eggers at the NASA Ames Research Center conducted early wind-tunnel experiments, finding that half of a rounded nose-cone shape that was flat on top and rounded on the bottom could generate a lift-to-drag ratio of about 1.5 to 1. Eggers' preliminary design sketch later resembled the basic M2 lifting-body design. At the NASA Langley Research Center, other researchers toyed with their own lifting-body shapes. Meanwhile, some of us aircraft-oriented researchers at the, NASA Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California were experiencing our own fascination with the lifting-body concept. A model-aircraft builder and private pilot on my own time, I found the lifting-body idea intriguing. I built a model based on Eggers' design, tested it repeatedly, made modifications in its control and balance characteristics along the way, then eventually presented the concept to others at the Center, using a film of its flights that my wife, Donna and I had made with our 8-mm home camera.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Armstrong Flight Research Center
Document Type
Reed, R. Dale
(NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Edwards, CA United States)
Lister, Darlene
(NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Edwards, CA United States)
Huntley, J. D.
(NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Edwards, CA United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1997
Publication Information
ISBN: 0-16-049390-0
Subject Category
Aircraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
NAS 1.21:4220
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
No Preview Available