Space Cover #175: M2 Lifting Body Cover Cachets
Five weeks ago we looked at the X-15 rocketplane cover cachets. This time out, let's look at the cachets for the M2 series of lifting body rocketplanes. But first things first — take a deep breath and bear with me here. There were three models of the M2 lifting body:
- The M2-F1, a plywood glider towed either behind a souped up Pontiac, or a C-47 cargo plane. It incorporated solid fuel landing rockets on some of the later flights. It flew from 1963 - 66.
- The Northrop M2-F2, an aluminum "heavyweight" lifting body designed to take a liquid fuel rocket engine. It flew without its rocket engine from 1966 - 67, when it crashed (Remember the opening sequence of the old "Six Million Dollar Man" TV show? If so, you've seen that crash.).
- The M2-F3, a modification of the M2-F2 after its crash landing, with engine. It flew from 1970 - 1972 to support Space Shuttle development.
The first M2-F1 covers have been covered twice here in SCOTW 20 and SCOTW 134. All carried a simple rubber stamped cachet that read "First Flight". The other M2-F1 cachets were handwritten (above, left) or a simple "M-2 Lifting Body" rubber stamp (above right).
When the aluminum "heavyweight" M2-F2 came along, the majority of the cachets for its flight covers were the same "M2 Lifting Body" rubber stamp shown above, but with a handwritten "F2" added after the "M2". However there are a couple more M2-F2 covers to be considered below:
The Northrop Stamp Club issued the cachet shown at upper left for the first flight of the M2-F2 on July 12, 1966, metered at the plant on that day. For some subsequent flights, Ray DuBeau added some of his rubber stamped cachets as shown at lower right. The M2-F2 had its crash on May 10, 1967, and didn't fly again until it was rebuilt as the M2-F3 in 1970, when there was a lot more interest in space covers, and more cachet makers.
The local Edwards AFB Boy Scout Troop 141 provided the cachet on the upper left for the duration of the M2-F3 program. Colors known are black (shown) and blue.
The NASA-Edwards Exchange Council provided a cachet for M2-F3 flight covers starting on November 15, 1971 through the end of the program. Colors known are: orange (shown above right), green, black, blue, light blue, red, and yellow. Some people label these as Edwards Official Cachets.
Bob Rank and his Space Voyager Cachet (SVC) service got into the act with the July 23, 1971 M2-F3 flight, issuing a printed cachet showing the M2-F3 "flying to the right" (see lower right image above). He continued this general cachet design for each flight up to October 19, 1972 when he introduced the "flying to the left" version (lower left above) that served through the end of the program on December 20, 1972. Colors of all the SVC Cachets are different for each flight.
Next time around, we will look at cachets for the HL-10 lifting body rocketplane flights!