List of NASA aircraft

Throughout its history NASA has used several different types of aircraft on a permanent, semi-permanent, or short-term basis. These aircraft are usually surplus, but in a few cases are newly built, military aircraft.


NASA 515

NASA 515 during braking test run on snow-covered runway at Brunswick Naval Air Station.
  • NASA 515 is the first Boeing 737 ever built. After being used to qualify the 737 design, NASA heavily modified the aircraft for continuing research. NASA 515 was maintained and flown by Langley Research Center as part of the Terminal Area Productivity (TAP) program until retirement.

F5D Skylancer

The Douglas F5D-1 Skylancer, with NASA colors, in flight in February 1971.

SR-71 Blackbird

SR-71 Blackbird with NASA markings.
  • Two SR-71 Blackbird's were used as trainers by NASA between 1991 and 1999. The plane was permanently retired in 1998, and the Air Force quickly disposed of their SR-71s, leaving NASA with the last two airworthy Blackbirds until 1999.[2] All other Blackbirds have been moved to museums except for the two SR-71s and a few D-21 drones retained by the NASA Dryden Research Center.[3]

Shuttle Training Aircraft

Shuttle Carrier Aircraft

Multi-Role Cooperative Research Platform

Gulfstream G-III with NASA markings.

Balls 8

NASA B-52 Tail Number 008 is an air launch carrier aircraft "mothership," as well as a research aircraft platform that has been used on a variety of research projects.
  • The Balls 8 is a NASA NB-52B which was used as a mothership for the X-15 program, 127 Lifting Body flight tests such as the HL-10 test flight, to support development in the Space Shuttle program, and several other miscellaneous test programs.[7] After almost 50 years flying service the Balls 8 was retired from active service with NASA on December 17, 2004, following its participation in the Hyper-X program.[8]

NASA Pathfinder

Centurion takes off from Dryden in December, 1998

NASA Parasev

NASA Parasev
  • The NASA Paresev program, which conducted tests between 1961 and 1965, was designed to study the ability of the Rogallo wing, also called Parawing, to descend a payload such as the Gemini space capsule safely from high altitude to ground.[9][10] Specifically, the Paresev was a test vehicle used to learn how to control this parachute-wing for a safe landing at a normal airfield.

Variable Stability Research Rotor Craft project

NASA CH-47B used as an in-flight simulator. Former US Army 66-19138
  • Boeing CH–47B. Used for the Variable Stability Research Rotor Craft project. It was equipped to fly by wire and had three on board computers. After research was completed it was returned to the US Army and converted to CH–47D.[11]

XB-70 Valkyrie

XB–70 Valkyrie on display at Wright-Patterson AFB




NASA M2–F1 lifting body
  • The NASA M2-F1 was a lightweight, unpowered prototype aircraft, developed to flight test the wingless lifting body concept. It looked like a "flying bathtub," and was designated the M2–F1, the "M" referring to "manned" and "F" referring to "flight" version. In 1962, NASA Dryden management approved a program to build a lightweight, unpowered lifting body prototype. It featured a plywood shell placed over a tubular steel frame crafted at Dryden. Construction was completed in 1963.[14]

Vertol VZ-2

VZ-2 arriving at Langley Air Force Base from Edwards Air Force Base in 1960

Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstration

Northrop-Grumman modified F-5E Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstration (SSBD) aircraft.


See also


  1. ^ "NASA Dryden F5D-1 Photo Collection". Dryden Flight Research Center Photo Collection. NASA. September 27, 2007. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  2. ^ "NASA/DFRC SR-71 Blackbird". Dryden Flight Research Center. NASA. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  3. ^ Jenkins, Dennis R. (2001). Lockheed Secret Projects: Inside the Skunk Works. St. Paul, Minnesota: Zenith Imprint. ISBN 978-0760309148. 
  4. ^ "NASA - Test Drive: Shuttle Training Aircraft Preps Astronauts for Landing". NASA. NASA. March 3, 2005. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  5. ^ Curry, Marty, ed (March 1, 2008). "Gulfstream III Multi-Role Cooperative Research Platform". Dryden Flight Research Center. NASA. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  6. ^ Cowing, Keith (22 March 2004). "A Day in the Life of NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe". (SpaceRef Interactive). 
  7. ^ Curry, Marty, ed (May 7, 2008). "NASA — NASA Dryden Fact Sheet — B-52B "Mothership" Launch Aircraft". Dryden Flight Research Center. NASA. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  8. ^ Creech, Gray (December 15, 2004). "NASA — End of an Era: NASA's Famous B-52B Retires". Dryden Flight Research Center. NASA. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  9. ^ "The Rogallo Parasev: A revolution in flying wings". Aviation News Magazine (HPC Publishing) (March 2007). March 2007. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  10. ^ Wade, Mark (July 31, 2008). "FIRST Re-entry glider:". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  11. ^ Borchers, Paul F.; Franklin, James A.; Fletcher, Jay W. (1998). "Rotorcraft Research". SP–3300 Flight Research at Ames, 1940–1997. Moffett Field, California: NASA. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  12. ^ Curry, Marty (December 9, 2009). "NASA — XB–70A Valkyrie". Dryden Flight Research Center. NASA. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  13. ^ Curry, Marty (May 7, 2008). "NASA — NASA Dryden Fact Sheet — AD–1". Dryden Flight Research Center. NASA. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  14. ^ Reed, R. Dale; Lister, Darlene (2002) (PDF). Wingless Flight: The Lifting Body Story. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813190266. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  15. ^ Borchers, Paul F.; Franklin, James A.; Fletcher, Jay W. (1998). "Boundary Layer Control, STOL, V/STOL Aircraft Research". SP-3300 Flight Research at Ames, 1940-1997. Moffett Field, California: NASA. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 
  16. ^ Malik, Tariq (April 21, 2004). "Shushing Sonic Booms: Changing the Shape of Supersonic Planes". (Imaginova). Retrieved January 10, 2010. 
  17. ^ "NASA GRC Icing Branch Facilities". NASA. NASA. October 28, 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2010. 

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