Dyna-Soar X-20


Nasa’s 1960’s Dyna-Soar (stands for DYNAmic SOARing) spaceplane was also known as the X-20. It was to be the first US Spaceplane to reach hardware. DynaSoar was the long needed program to explore the questions of high altitude hypersonic flight. The X-20 would have been covered with ceramic heat-resistant material, much like the Space Shuttle.

dyna-soar x-20

Conceived in 1957 as a logical next step after the X-15 rocket plane, the Dyna-Soar was based on Eugen Sanger’s WWII-era “Silver Bird” concept of a bomber which could skip around the globe on the upper atmosphere.

The USAF saw the Dyna-Soar as their first step into the military use of outer space and planned numerous versions of the ship, including satellite inspection and electronic and photographic intelligence gathering (shown here). Later versions were also planned as mini-space stations and “orbital bombers” which could carry “stand-off” nuclear weapons into orbit.

X-20 Dyna-Soar Specifications:

Type: Delta- Winged Space Glider

Crew: 1

Weight at Launch: 5170 Kg

Total Length: 10.8m

Wing Span: 6.4m

Aircraft Structure: Made of Rene 41 Steel

Launcher:  Titan III booster

Status: Never flown

History of Dyna Soar

Due to the launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957, the USAF and NACA (now NASA) merged hypersonic aircraft studies into one research program. The original concepts were:  Hywards, RoBo, and Brass Bell.

On December 21, there were 9 proposals: a Boeing-Vought team, Convair, Douglas, Lockheed, McDonnell, North American, Northrop, a Martin-Bell team, and Republic. Boeing- and Martin-led team were chosen.

There was disagreement in the Department of Defense (DoD) and USAF about what Dyna Soar was. The Dyna Soar project office saw it becoming a viable military system for long range weapons delivery or reconnaissance. The USAF preferred Dyna Soar for sub-orbital tests using existing rockets.

Development Plan in 1960 

Stage 1: 20 air-launched test flights from a modified B-52 starting in July 1963. A series of five unmanned sub-orbital test flights using the Titan I would follow starting in November 1963. 

The last part of Step I called for 11 manned test flights launched from Cape Canaveral and landing at four different sites as far away as Brazil. 

Stage 2: Gather data on orbital operations eventually leading to an interim reconnaissance and satellite inspection capabilities (military version). 

Stage 3: A fully operational system. 

Throughout 1960 Dyna Soar design continually gained weight and the launch vehicle was changed from a Titan I to a Titan II.

In 1961, efforts were made to speed up the Dyna-Soar program due to Yuri Gagarin’s first man in space flight. Drastic changes were initiated. The Titan III was chosen as the launch vehicle (original Titan I).

Dynasoar was cancelled in 1963. Only one non-flying prototype completed, the USAF’s astronaut corps shifted into training for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory. A model of the X-20 is on display at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

Related Books:

Dyna-Soar: Hypersonic Strategic Weapons System (Apogee Books Space Series)

by Robert Godwin, Godwin Robert (Editor)
from Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukAmazon.ca

Hypersonic: The Story of the North American X-15
by Dennis Jenkins, Tony Landis, William H. Dana
from Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukAmazon.ca

X-15 Photo Scrapbook
by Tony R. Landis, Dennis R. Jenkins
from Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukAmazon.ca

X-15 Diary: The Story of America’s First Space Ship
by Richard Tregaskis
from Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukAmazon.ca

At the Edge of Space: The X-15 Flight Program
by Milton O. Thompson, Neil A. Armstrong
from Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukAmazon.ca

Dynasoar Links: