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Northrop M2


In mid-1964 Northrop was contracted by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to produce two all-metal wingless lifting-body re-entry research vehicles, based on experience gained with the Northrop M2-F1 wooden glider, which made more than 500 flights in 1963-64. These lifting-body vehicles were intended to prove the viability of wingless flying machines that could re-enter the atmosphere at hypersonic speed after orbital flight and fly back to their bases.

The two new vehicles were designated M2-F2 and HL-10 and differed in under- and upper-surface fuselage shapes. First flight of the M2-F2 as a glider was made on 12 July 1966 when it was dropped from beneath the wing of a Boeing B-52 at 14235m to make a successful 306km/h landing four minutes later.

The M2-F2 was badly damaged on landing in May 1967 and, subsequently rebuilt as the M2-F3 made its first powered flight on 2 June 1970, attaining Mach 0.8 at 16155m on three of its four XLR11 rocket chambers. Later in the programme it recorded a height of nearly 27430m and speed of Mach 1.7. The M2-F3 had triple rather than double vertical tail surfaces.

When testing ended in 1973 these aircraft had provided much information which was to prove invaluable for NASA's Space Shuttle programme.




Northrop M2-F1



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