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  Space Cover 278: MX-324 U.S. manned rocketplane

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 278: MX-324 U.S. manned rocketplane

Posts: 1301
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 08-17-2014 06:03 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 278 (August 17, 2014)

Space Cover #278: The MX-324 – America's First Manned Rocketplane

So, you may ask, "What does some cover postmarked in Ithaca, NY on July 24, 1944 have to do with space covers?" Well, the answer lies in the backstamped postmark (below), applied on July 26, 1944 at the arrival point, Muroc CA., which was the Army Air Force testing base that later became the better-known Edwards Air Force Base.

On July 26, 1944, the Northrop MX-324 flying wing prototype, piloted by Northrop test pilot Harry Crosby, made its' seventh-and-final rocket-powered flight.

The MX-324 (pictured above, Crosby in civilian clothes) was a small wooden prototype of Jack Northrop's flying wing concept. Flight tests at Muroc consisted of the MX-324 (and its' cousin, the MX-334) being towed to altitude by a P-38 fighter plane, then being released to glide to a landing on the dry lakebed. The Northrop team needed "more power" (sounds like a mid-'90's American comedy show, eh?). So they added in a tiny 200 pound thrust rocket engine to the airframe that actually sat between the prone-laying pilot's legs (and yes, Tim the Toolman would have plenty to say about the latter!).

The MX-324 and MX-334 had flown numerous glide flights before adding a rocket engine to the MX-324. The MX-324 became the first manned American rocketplane with its first rocket flight on July 5, 1944 at Muroc. It flew six more times under rocket power at Muroc on July 11, 12, 14, 18, 25, and 26 (the cover above).

I've been hunting for 30 years for more Muroc postmarks on the days of MX-324 rocket flights, and this is the only one I have found. Does anyone else have any?

And there were some manned rocketplane flights in Europe prior to this, but I don't have much information on those flights. If any of you do (and especially if you have covers!), please post! I will be glad to host your images if need be, just email them to me.

So, the challenge is on — Is there an earlier manned rocketplane flight cover?


Posts: 458
From: Salzburg, Austria
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 08-18-2014 08:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As far as I know the first manned rocket plane flight in the USA took place in 1931.

William G. Swan wanted to fly a rocket plane as summer attraction at the steel pier in Atlantic City. Rockets should keep a converted single-sash Glider longer than half an hour in the air.

Swan made his first test flight at Bader airfield in Atlantic City, New Jersey on June 4, 1931. It only weighed 90 kg and was equipped with 10 rockets.

The ground crew hoisted it into the air. As the plane reached some momentum, Swan lit the first rocket with a lever. It moved him so powerful that he was almost catapulted from his seat. It took the plane 30 m higher. Swan took no further risk and landed 300 m away from the starting point.

Two covers flown with this flight are known. This was also the first rocket mail flight in America.


Posts: 1301
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 08-18-2014 04:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, Walter!!! That definitely takes the cake (as we say in the States)! Great cover and history!

All times are CT (US)

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