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  Space Cover 20: First Lifting Body That Wasn't

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 20: First Lifting Body That Wasn't

Posts: 1239
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 08-30-2009 07:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 20 (August 31, 2009)

Space Cover #20, The First Lifting Body Cover That Wasn't

Last week, Bob McLeod told us about the official cachets for the X-24B lifting body research vehicle. The X-24B was the last in a series of rocket powered wingless lifting bodies used by NASA to ferret out possible configurations for the (then) future Space Shuttle, and in the case of the X-24B, to actually test Space Shuttle landing profiles. As you can see from Bob's article, the X-24B was a metal arrowhead-shaped craft that really looked like something from the space program. And the covers for the X-24B were pretty sophisticated too!

The first lifting body didn't start out so auspiciously. The M2-F1 was a small, tub-shaped plywood glider that got its start being towed to a few feet in altitude behind a souped-up Pontiac at Edwards AFB in 1963 (below). The intent was just to see if a wingless airplane could fly and land.

In at least 90 "tow" tests behind the Pontiac between April and August, 1963 the little M2-F1 flew and landed successfully. On August 16, 1963, the M2-F1 was towed into the air behind NASA's C-47 cargo plane and released at altitude to successfully glide to a landing. So far, this was solely a NASA "in-house" project at Edwards and not known to the general public.

On September 3, 1963, the press was invited to Edwards to view the M2-F1 and to watch two air towed flights performed by pilot Milt Thompson. And a few covers actually got postmarked at Edwards that day for the flights that day (above). These covers had two simple rubber stamped cachets - "Lifting Body M-2" and "First Flight" (the latter apparently because the cachet applier, along with the press believed that these were the first flights of the M2-F1). Later M2-F1 covers stayed equally simple, using the same "Lifting Body M-2" rubber stamp or even pen-and-ink for the cachets.

The M2-F1 flew about 400 missions (counting both air and ground tows) through 1966. But covers were only serviced for a handful of these flights. Cover dates that I have seen are:

  • September 3, 1963
  • January 29, 1964
  • January 30, 1964
  • March 30, 1964
  • April 9, 1964
  • May 19, 1964
  • August 19, 1964 (day after posting for Aug. 18 flight)
  • February 16, 1965
  • February 24, 1965
  • March 29, 1965
  • October 6, 1965
  • October 8, 1965
  • March 28, 1966
  • July 19, 1966 (Actually canceled as an M2-F2 cover, M2-F1 also flew that day)
  • August 4, 1966
  • August 16, 1966 (n.b. cachet calls this a M2-F2 flight)
There are also M2-F1 covers around that are postmarked on May 9, 1964, but I've never been able to find a logged flight of the M2-F1 for that date.

Anyone seen any others?

If you would like more information on covers associated with the lifting bodies, or any of the rocketplanes tested at Edwards AFB from 1944-1975, the Space Unit has published a CD version of "The Edwards Rocketplane Cover Handbook".

Bob M

Posts: 1367
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 09-01-2009 04:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's a simple, basic cover, but a very well-done, informative and interesting presentation. Thanks, Dennis.

All times are CT (US)

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