X-20 Dyna-Soar Space Vehicle

Artist's concept of Dyna-Soar in flight above Earth.The Dyna-Soar design contract was awarded to Boeing on Nov. 9, 1959, and designated the X-20 on June 19, 1962.

The Dyna-Soar, designed to be a 35.5-foot piloted reusable space vehicle, had a sharply swept delta 20.4-foot-span wing and a graphite and zirconia composite nose cap and used three retractable struts for landing. Eleven manned flights were to be launched from Cape Canaveral Fla., starting in November 1964. Dyna-Soar's first orbital flight was tentatively scheduled for early 1965.

The X-20 reached the mockup stage. $410 million had been spent on its development, and a cadre of astronauts was training to fly it. However, the U.S. government canceled the program on Dec. 10, 1963, because Dyna-Soar had no viable military mission and was too expensive for a research vehicle. Congress diverted the X-20 funding to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, which used McDonnell-built Gemini capsules. The partially completed X-20 prototype and the mockup were scrapped, as well as initial tooling set up for a production line for 10 space planes.

In 1961, the Air Force contracted with McDonnell Aircraft to build six experimental aerodynamic/elastic structures environment test vehicles that roughly resembled the Dyna-Soar. The scaled-down test vehicles were 5.7 feet long and used Douglas-built Thor or Thor-Delta boosters, which in turn used engines built by North American's Rocketdyne division. The program was very successful and demonstrated that winged re-entry vehicles could traverse the upper atmosphere.

Specifications
First flight: Projected, 1965
Model number: X-20
Classification: Space vehicle
Span: 20 feet
Length: 35 feet
Max. payload: 10,500 pounds
Cruising speed: 0.80 Mach