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Rocketplane
Category of launch vehicles and spacecraft.



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RP-318 Russian manned rocketplane. Korolev adapted his SK-9 glider in 1936 as the first rocked-powered aircraft in the Soviet Union.

Me-163 German winged rocketplane. The rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me-163 was the world's first and only operational pure rocket fighter and represented the culmination of Alexander Lippisch's years of research in rocketplanes, tail-less aircraft, and delta wings. As a weapon, the Me-163 had tremendous speed but very limited range. However the concepts developed by Lippisch contributed to the Space Shuttle and Buran orbiters of a quarter century later.

Junkers 'Junior' German manned rocketplane. Flown 1936. Early German rocketplane.

Korolev Rocket Plane Russian manned rocketplane. Study 1938. Korolev was already sketching rocketplanes similar to the Me-163 before World War II. This was one concept from his sketchbook.

He-122 German manned rocketplane. Flown 1938. Early German rocketplane.

He-176 German manned rocketplane. Flown 1938. Early German rocketplane.

Von Braun Rocketplane German manned rocketplane. Study 1939. On 6 July 1939 Wernher von Braun proposed to the German Reich Air Ministry a "fighter with rocket drive".

BI-1 Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1941. The Bereznyak-Isayev BI-1 was the first high speed rocket plane developed by the Soviet Union. Drawings were completed by spring 1941 but Stalin did not give the go-ahead for production until July 9, 1941.

Malyutka Russian anti-tank missile.

XS-1 American manned rocketplane. Design begun 1943. Also known as the X-1. This rocket plane was the first aircraft to break the sound barrier, and the first in a line of X- aircraft leading to the space shuttle.

MX-324 Northrop manned rocketplane. Flown 1944. First U.S. military rocket-powered plane.

A-9 German manned rocketplane. Study 1944. Manned, winged boost-glide version of the V-2 missile. It would have been capable of delivering express cargo 600 km from the launch point within 17 minutes.

LL Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1945. The LL was a transonic aerodynamic test bed authorized by LII in September 1945. Three were built: the LL-1 with a straight wing; LL-2 with a conventional swept wing; and LL-3 with a forward swept wing.

XP-79 Northrop manned rocket-propelled flying wing fighter. Abandoned when pilot was killed in first test flight with turbojet engines in 1945.

X-2 American manned rocketplane. Design began 1945. X-2 was an AAF/ Bell project that flew three supersonic flight research aircraft, powered by liquid rockets. Originally designated XS-2.

346 rocketplane Russian manned rocketplane. 4 flights from 1946. Post-war Soviet version of the German supersonic DFS 8-346 rocket reconnaissance aircraft. Abandoned in 1951 after the prototype crashed.

I-270 Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1947. The MiG I-270 rocketplane began as a post-war copy of the German Ju-248 (Me-263) design. The resulting rocketplane had a more refined aerodynamic form than the Me-263 and lower gross weight.

Tsien Spaceplane 1949 American winged rocketplane. In 1949 Tsien Hsue-shen, the leading expert in high-speed aerodynamics working in America, applied the knowledge learned from German rocket developments to the design of a practical intercontinental rocket transport.

D-558-1 American manned high-speed research aircraft. Flown 1947-1953. The D-558-I "Skystreaks" were among the early transonic research airplanes like the X-1, X-4, X-5, and XF-92A.

XP-92 American manned delta-wing rocketplane. Never flown with rockets, but flew as a turbojet-powered research aircraft, 1948-1953.

Samolyot 5 Russian manned rocketplane. Cancelled 1949. Bisnovat was assigned the project to develop an all-Soviet equivalent to the 346 supersonic rocketplane being developed by the German Roessing team in OKB-2.

U400-10 Russian manned rocketplane. Flown 1949. Unmanned rocketplane that proved Isayev rocket engine technology in the late 1940's.

XF-91 American manned rocketplane. The Republic XF-91 Thunderceptor was a mixed-power interceptor, being powered by both a jet engine and by a battery of rocket motors. Although it showed promise, it was not put into production.

D-558-2 American manned rocketplane. Flown from 1949. Research airplane Douglas D-558. Airplane had both jet and rocket engines and was flown from ground takeoff. The D-558-II Skyrocket exceeded the speed of sound at Edwards AFB, Calif.

X-1D American manned rocketplane. Study 1953. The X-1A, B, and D were essentially identical rocketplanes intended to reach speeds above Mach 2.

X-1A American manned rocketplane. Study 1951. The X-1A, B, and D were essentially identical rocketplanes intended to reach speeds above Mach 2.

X-15A American air-launched manned spaceplane, used for hypersonic research. 174 launches, 1959.06.08 (X-15 Flight 1) to 1968.10.24 (X-15 Flight 199). The X-15 was the first USAF and NASA project for manned spaceflight, initiated years before Mercury.

X-1B American manned rocketplane. Flown 1952. The X-1A, B, and D were essentially identical rocketplanes intended to reach speeds above Mach 2.

D-558-3 American manned rocketplane. Flown 1954. The D-558-3 was a US Navy/Douglas counterpart to the X-15, which would have kept the Navy in the 'space race' and Douglas in the running for future manned spaceplanes.

FJ-4F American manned rocketplane. The FJ-4F was a US Navy Fury fighter fitted with a Rocketdyne AR1 engine for quick intercept of Soviet bombers. Two prototypes were tested which reached Mach 1.41 at 22 km altitude.

X-1E American manned rocketplane. Study 1954. The X-1E was designed to test an ultra-thin 4% thickness to cord wing for supersonic flight.

Bell Rocket Transport 1957 American manned rocketplane. Proposed 1957 civilian transport version of Bomi rocket bomber. Bell was unable to interest any airlines in putting up the development funds for the project.

Buran M-42 Russian intercontinental cruise missile. Cancelled 1957. Several variants of the Myasishchev Buran trisonic intercontinental cruise missile M-42 cruise stage were studied, including a piloted version.

Buran M-44 Russian manned ramjet-powered research aircraft. Study 1958. Air-launched derivative of the Buran Mach 3 high altitude cruise missile system, proposed for use as an unmanned high speed research vehicle.

NF-104 American manned rocketplane. Study 1959. The NF-104 aerospace trainer was a modified F-104A fighter, incorporating an LR-121 liquid fuel rocket engine in addition to the conventional J-79 turbojet engine.

Bell Hypersonic Rocket Transport 1960 American manned rocketplane. In March 1960 Bell proposed a revised hypersonic transport design based on its work on boost-glide vehicles during the 1950's. There was no government or airline interest in the concept.

X-15 Null

X-15A-2 American manned spaceplane. The crash-damaged X-15 number 2 was rebuilt to attain even higher speeds. The body frame was stretched, and two drop tanks were added, increasing propellant load by 75%. Reached Mach 6.7 and 108 km altitude.

Mini-shuttle American manned rocketplane. Study 1972. In August 1972 it was proposed to test a subscale version of the shuttle to test the aerodynamics. The 13,750 kg vehicle would be 11 m long and have a wingspan of 7 m.

Ascender British manned rocketplane. The Bristol Spaceplanes Ascender of the 1992 was a sub-orbital four-crew manned spaceplane concept proposed by David Ashford. In 2001 Ashford proposed the design as an X-Prize contender. However adequate funding was still not forthcoming for development.

Hytex German manned rocketplane. Study 1995. Following the cancellation of Saenger II, Germany briefly considered a manned X-15/NASP type flight test vehicle (HYTEX) capable of Mach 6 flight. This too was cancelled for cost reasons.

Isinglass CIA air-launched, single-crew, rocket-powered high speed manned vehicle project of 1965-1968 that developed basic technologies used in later shuttle and reusable launch vehicle programs.

TAV American winged single-crew rocketplane. USAF program of the 1980's that reached the test hardware stage and was leading to a single-stage-to-orbit, rocket-powered, winged manned vehicle. Halted in favour of the X-30 National Aerospace Plane, and then the similar X-33.

Vehra French air-launched rocketplane. Dassault design for an air-launched experimental reusable launch vehicle. It would be launched from Novespace's Airbus 300 zero-G aircraft. The lifting-body design was loosely based on Dassault's work on the NASA-led X-38 Crew Rescue Vehicle program. VEHRA weighed 6.5 t metric tons and carried 19.5 metric tons of kerosene and oxygen propellant. One Russian 400.5 kN-thrust NK-39 engine would power the vehicle, which would be capable of reaching Mach 14. The 11.5 meter long vehicle also contained a small 1.5 x 1.5 x 5 meter payload bay for an expendable upper stage+250 kg satellite. Like THEMIS, VEHRA would explore hypersonic flight and the operational and cost aspects of reusability.

X-33 American winged rocketplane. NASA-sponsored suborbital unmanned prototype for a single-stage-to-orbit rocketplane. The Lockheed Martin vehicle would have used a linear aerospike engine, metallic insulation, and other features similar to their Starclipper shuttle proposal of 1971. In 1999 catastrophic failure of the composite fuel tank during static test brought into question the technical feasibility of the design. The program was cancelled in 2001 before any flight articles were completed and after over $1.2 billion had been expended.

Tier One Burt Rutan's Tier One was the second manned reusable suborbital launch system (after the B-52/X-15). But it was developed privately at a small fraction of the cost, and won the X-Prize in 2004 as the first privately-developed reusable manned suborbital spacecraft. The design was greatly enlarged to produce SpaceShipTwo, the first commercial spaceplane.

Astroliner American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. The Kelly Space & Technology Astroliner Space Launch System was a two-stage-to-orbit, towed space launch concept. Towing an aerodynamic vehicle to an altitude of 6,000 m yielded higher system performance due to vacuum engine performance, reduced drag and gravity losses, and aerodynamic lift during flight.

People: Opel, Swan.

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