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  Space Cover 181: HL-10 Lifting Body Cachets

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 181: HL-10 Lifting Body Cachets

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

posted 09-30-2012 09:29 AM     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 181 (September 30, 2012)

Space Cover #181: HL-10 Lifting Body Cachets

In my previous Space Covers of the Week, we looked at cachets on the X-15 covers, and also cachets from the M2 series of lifting body rocketplane covers. This week, let’s look at the Northrop HL-10 lifting body rocketplane cachets.

The HL-10 was another wingless configuration that looked favorable for a future Space Shuttle vehicle. In profile the HL-10 was flat on the bottom with a curved top, much like a conventional airfoil wing (as opposed to the M2 which was basically a half-cone). An all-metal HL-10 was built by Northrop along with the M2-F2 lifting body.

The HL-10 first flew on December 22, 1966 on a glide flight in the hands of NASA test pilot Bruce Peterson. The top cover in the above image is postmarked at Edwards, Ca on that date. It carries a rubber stamped "First Flight" cachet, with a hand lettered "HL-10 Bruce Peterson" added by the servicer. The Bruce Peterson script autograph below that is not part of the cachet.

The lower cover shows the Northrop Stamp Club printed cachet for the flight, postmarked near the Northrop plant in Hawthorne, Ca. that day. Again, the Peterson autograph is not part of the cachet.

After this first flight, the HL-10 project stood down for over a year, working to correct some stability issues experienced on the flight. In the meantime Bruce Peterson was seriously injured in a crash of the M2-F2 lifting body. Jerry Gentry, a USAF test pilot, took his place on the HL-10 project. The second HL-10 flight took place on March 15, 1968 in the hands of Gentry (top cover above). By that time the cover servicer (I’m thinking Boy Scout Troop 141, but if someone knows differently, please shout!) had developed a rubber stamp cachet reading "HL 10 LIFTING BODY". Then they hand wrote Gentry’s name in below – please don’t confuse this as a Gentry autograph – you will see these for sale, falsely listed as "autographed". This type of cachet was used up through the fifth flight on May 3, 1968.

For the sixth flight on May 16, 1968, a new rubber-stamped cachet appeared (lower cover above) showing a profile view of the HL-10. This is generally acknowledged as the "Boy Scout Cachet", applied by the local Boy Scout Troop 141, for the HL-10 and was used through the last flight on July 17, 1970.

Bob Rank got in with a gorgeous, one-off Velvet Cachet for the November 13, 1968 powered flight of the HL-10 (above). Rank’s cachet lists this as the first powered flight of the HL-10, however it was the second powered flight. The earlier, first powered flight just didn’t go so well…

Anyway, in the words of the test pilots themselves, the HL-10 ended up being the easiest-to-land lifting body. Several of the flights were dedicated to proving that the future Space Shuttle could land "deadstick" without extra landing engines. In the Shuttle era, an HL-20 variant was formulated to be a potential crewed orbital re-entry vehicle, but that was eclipsed by the more-extensively-characterized X-23/X-24 lifting body configuration that we will discuss next time.


Posts: 972
From: Lincolnshire IL USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 09-30-2012 10:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great covers, Dennis. The HL-10 did not get as much publicity as some of the other lifting body projects.


Posts: 164
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 10-19-2012 07:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Dennis, sorry for my slow response back on this. I wanted to add this flown HL-10 cover to your Space Cover of the Week posting. It is a Jerry Gentry flown HL-10 cover carried by Gentry on his March 15, 1968 test flight over Edwards AFB, California, on the HL-10's first flight checkout, citing Gentry's words here.

At the time I found this HL-10 cover, I didn't think much of it and the hand cancel could certainly be better, but in checking further, I don't recall seeing any other flown HL-10 covers or on any of the space auction sites either. Are there any other flown HL-10 covers out there in CS land? Many thanks, Steve


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

posted 10-19-2012 01:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great cover Steve! That one is listed in the Ellington-Zwisler (E-Z) Rocket Mail Catalog Volume 2 as #103. At the time that E-Z Volume 2 was published, there was not a lot of information on the HL-10, so the E-Z entry is annotated as just "Carried on U.S. Government Rocket-Propelled Vehicle - #804" (the 804 being NASA 804, the HL-10 tail number).

E-Z also lists covers flown onboard NASA 804 for Bill Dana's November 17, 1969 flight (E-Z #X130), and Dana's February 27, 1970 flight (E-Z #X132).

Ken Havekotte

Posts: 1823
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 10-19-2012 02:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It might be interesting to note that the proposed future Dream Chaser spacecraft program is derived from NASA's HL-10/20 research efforts, which somewhat resemebles the space shuttle orbiters after years of development.

NASA and Sierra Nevada Corp. of Louisville, CO, signed a funded Space Act Agreement in March 2011 for the firm's Dream Chaser spacecraft development. Under the $80 million agreement, NASA's Commercial Crew Program and Sierra Nevada are working to advance the company's reusable lifting-body spacecraft.

As reported by the nation's space agency, plans for the spacecraft include launching vertically and free-flight capabilities in low Earth orbit to dock with the International Space Station.

Dream Chaser currently is the only Commercial Crew Development Round 2 vehicle being developed with wings and the ability to land on a conventional runway.

Even today, plans are underway with development already in progress for future manned space vehicles that have their initial roots or beginnings from decades of lifting body research efforts like the HL-10/20.

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