Rocketplanes at the Airport

  • Matthew A. Bentley

Rocketplanes have been around far longer than many of us groundlings may realize. German rocket gliders were flying in the 1920s, and winged space-bombers have been on the drawing boards since the 1930s. Both rocketplanes and winged rockets were flown during World War II, and rocket-research aircraft flew from the late 1940s until the mid-1970s. Rocket-powered “lifting bodies” flew in the 1960s and 1970s, gathering much needed aeronautical data. All of these efforts led directly to the US Space Shuttle, which since 1981 has flown over 120 missions into low Earth orbit, each time landing on a runway as a real spaceplane. The latest working example of a real spaceplane is SpaceShipOne, which flew several suborbital missions in 2004 above the 100-km “magic altitude” of space. The idea of using a winged vehicle to gain access to space shows no signs of stalling out. The vehicles themselves have had their share of mishaps, to be sure, but the idea flies on.

The history of the development of...


Rocket Engine Rocket Motor Vertical Stabilizer Liquid Propellant Aviation Gasoline 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew A. Bentley
    • 1
  1. 1.Rock RiverUSA

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