(Download a higher resolution picture by clicking on any picture below. Photos on the right side of the page are from NASA Dryden and the Air Force Flight Test Center History Office)
The sixth flight of the X-38 was launched on Thursday, November 2, 2000. It was the first flight of the modified V-131R configuration. It demonstrated the full-size 7,500-square-foot parafoil to be used on the actual Space Station Lifeboat. Previous X-38 flights used a 5,000-square-foot parafoil.
A short while before the NB-52B took off with V-131R, the red Eagle Cam Cessna 337 Skymaster, N337WA with a Gyron 935 gyro-stabilized video system took off from mid-field. It transmitted live television of the parachute descent of the X-38. It is registered to Gyron Eagle, Ltd of Pasadena, California. It is operated by Wolfe Air and is regularly scheduled for MTVs Senseless Acts of Video.
Link to Wolfe Air's fleet page.
Shortly before 8:00 A.M. the NB-52B lined up with the main runway.
A white and blue NASA F/A-18B Hornet chase plane, N846NA took off. It made one circuit of the pattern and lined up with the runway to catch the NB-52B as it took off.
Visit the NASA Dryden F-18 chase aircraft Fact Page and F-18 chase aircraft Photo Gallery.
The tower radioed clearance for the NB-52B to take-off. The shrill whine of the eight J57 turbojets increased in volume and a dense cloud of black smoke billowed up behind the Stratofortress.
The NB-52B lifted off after rolling nearly 8,000 feet.
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You can buy an 8-inch by 10-inch print of this picture and some of my other B-52 Stratofortress pictures through the Lockett Photography web site.
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X-38, V-131R is an 80%-scale testbed of the Space Station Crew Return Vehicle.
Forty years earlier, the NB-52B takes off with the X-15-1 from runway 04 in September 1960. Photo courtesy AFFTC/HO.
Mission symbols for the five previous X-38 parachute recovery system tests can be seen on the side of the fuselage of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress mothership.
Shortly after the NB-52B take-off, the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft departed with Shuttle OV-103, Discovery. Link to a page with more pictures of the Discovery at Edwards Air Force Base.
The NB-52B carries X-38, V-131R over the Mojave Desert on November 2, 2000. Photo ec00-0317-154 courtesy NASA Dryden.
High overhead, contrails streamed from the engines of the NB-52B as it flew around a racetrack pattern with its F/A-18B chase plane.
The X-38 was dropped from the NB-52B at an altitude of 36,500 feet. It made an unplanned 360-degree roll after launch. After twenty-four seconds of gliding flight, it deployed an 80-foot diameter drogue chute. It deployed the 7,000 square foot parafoil at an altitude of 19,000 feet.
A smoke generator has been installed on the left wing of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress mothership to assist in tracking the airplane.
A Bell UH-1 Huey helicopter flew near the X-38 to transmit live television of the test. The parafoil turned slowly in a half circle as it descended to the lakebed.
X-38, V-131R descends toward Rogers Dry Lake on November 2, 2000. Photo EC00-0317-41 courtesy NASA Dryden.
The trailing edge of the parachute curled downward to flare the chute for landing.
The skids of the X-38 hit the lakebed and kicked up a cloud of brown dust as the lifting body pitched forward for a moment.
The parafoil settled to the ground alongside the X-38, reflected in the lakebed mirage.
X-38, V-131R on Rogers Dry Lake following the sixth free flight on November 2, 2000. Photo EC00-0317-41 courtesy NASA Dryden.
The NB-52B landing after launching the X-38 on November 2, 2000. Photo ec00-0318-1 courtesy NASA Dryden.
Link to the NASA Dryden press release about the X-38 parachute test on November 2.
Visit the NASA Dryden X-38 Project page.
Link to the NASA Dryden X-38 Photo Gallery.
Link to the NASA Dryden X-38 Fact Sheet.
Link to the NASA Human Spaceflight X-38 Crew Return Vehicle page.
Visit the NASA Dryden B-52 Stratofortress Mothership Fact Page.
Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership.
The X-Planes: X-1 to X-45: 3rd Edition by Jay Miller
Test Colors: The Aircraft of Muroc Army Airfield and Edwards Air Force Base by Rene Francillon
X-Planes at Edwards (Enthusiast Color Series) by Steve Pace
Edwards Air Force Base : Open House at the USAF Flight Test Center 1957-1966 : A Photo Chronicle of Aircraft Displayed (Schiffer Military History) by Robert D. Archer
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Go to home page of the Goleta Air and Space Museum.