Rocket Propelled Gliders

Rocket Propelled Gliders

The idea of ​​a rocket-driven glider is as old as the first flying machines. Attempts to build something similar, even for other purposes, date back to the 1920s, when rocket fashion invaded Europe.

In 1928 Friedrich Stamer managed to fly along a kilometer in a small glider driven by two tiny rockets. A year later Fritz von Opel, the car mogul, flew in a glider almost equal a mile in the vicinity of Frankfurt. The glider, powered by 16 rockets with solid fuel, reached the speed of 153 km. schedules and managed to stay on air for 75 seconds.

In the mid-1930s Werner von Braun, a young German scientist destined to become one of the parents of astronautics, was studying the possibility of making a rocket-powered glider. The studies were mainly aimed at the development of the rocket engine for ballistic missiles.

There were two gliders that were experienced: the Heinkel 176, the first rocket-powered airplane, and the famous V2. But the group of scientists working with von Braun went further: he projected a two-section rocket capable of crossing the Atlantic. The first section was called "A10", the second, "A9" and was provided with wings. The A9 had been devised to arrive in New York carrying a deadly load of a ton of high-powered explosive in its hold.

Although this transatlantic rocket never came true, the project was, in practice, a first attempt to make a rocket-powered aircraft.

A more ambitious and sophisticated development of this idea was proposed in the 1940s by Viennese engineer Eugen Sanger, who projected another rocket-powered glider bomber. The aircraft should have reached a height of 161 km. at a speed of 6 km / sec., and would have entered the atmosphere going down like a glider. Thanks to the calculation of a certain planning angle, it would have managed to travel something like 15,000 km.

This study, never carried out, inspired the Air Force project called "Dyna Soar", later renamed "X-20". It was a glider with a length of 10 m., With small delta wings and two vertical twin ailerons at the ends of the wings. Put into orbit by a "Titan lll" conveyor, the "X-20" had to re-enter the atmosphere and plan horizontally.

In the early 1960s, the "Dyna Soar" project was abandoned because NASA carried out the space program with men on board. Anyway, the supersonic aircraft "X-20" remained as the prototype for the successive experiments and, in practice, is the starting point of the idea that will lead to the realization of the Space Shuttle and the successive space shuttles.

The preliminary space shuttle projects also suffered the influence of another old proposal: the intercontinental passenger plane devised by Aalter Dornberger and Kraft Ehricke. It was a glider formed by two airplanes with delta wings. The first section, larger, was driven by 5 rockets; the second, which was to house passengers, by 3 rockets; 130 seconds after launch, the sections would separate: the auxiliary rocket would return to the ground, while the second section would continue the journey at a speed of 13,500 km / h. and at a height of 44 km., then start planning.

On the space shuttle, after taking off like a rocket, the spacecraft separated from the transporter to continue its journey orbiting the earth and returning planning without using engines.

Tests on the prototype of the Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise (the shuttle was named in honor of the millions of fans of the science fiction television series Star Trek) began in February 1977 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, in the Edwards base, California. The Enterprise was placed on the back of a Boeing 747, specially modified to perform a series of flight tests, first without crew and then with men on board.

The first free flight test with crew was conducted on August 12, 1977, when astronauts Fred W. Haise and C. Gordon Fullerton left the mother plane, planned and landed without problems after a flight started at about 7,000 meters Tall.

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