Goleta Air and Space Museum: NASA's NB-52B Walkaround

 

NASA's Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership Walkaround

December 17, 2004



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NASA's Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership was retired in a ceremony at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base on Friday December 17, 2004. The NB-52B has been a fixture at Edwards AFB for forty-nine years. It first launched a North American X-15 rocket plane on January 23, 1960. Its final mission was the launch of the third X-43A Hyper-X, which demonstrated that an air-breathing engine can propel a vehicle at Mach-10 on the afternoon of November 16, 2004.

NASA's Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership NASA's Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership was the oldest Stratofortress still flying, yet it had accumulated the fewest flying hours, just 2,443 hours since it first flew in June 1955.

Photography Prints You can buy framed prints of this photograph.

The NB-52B launched the three X-15 hypersonic rocket planes and the Northrop HL-10, Northrop M2-F2/F3, Martin Marietta X-24A and Martin Marietta X-24B lifting bodies. It simulated the steep, power off approach to landing used by the Space Shuttles. It assisted in the collection of data about wake turbulence from large aircraft. It served as an air-to-air gunnery target. It launched 3/8-scale F-15 Remotely Piloted Research Vehicles (RPRV), a Ryan Firebee II drone, Ryan Firebee based Drones for Aeroelastic Structures Testing (DAST), and the Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology (HiMAT) RPRVs. It dropped the 48,000-pound Space Shuttle Reusable Booster Drop Test Vehicle (SRB/DTV) and it released a simulated F-111 crew module from its bomb bay to evaluate new parachute recovery systems. It was the first airplane to launch a satellite into orbit on the Orbital Sciences Pegasus booster. It tested the drag chute used to decelerate space shuttle orbiters. It tested pollution reducing fuel additives with a pair of jet engines mounted under its bomb bay. It launched the X-38 Space Station Crew Return Vehicles and the X-43A Hyper-X Supersonic Combustion Ramjet.

The NB-52B has been placed on permanent display just outside the North Gate of the base, where it is accessible to the public.

Left front quarter shot The Air Force Systems Command badge on the left side of the nose has faded badly.

Left side rear fuselage There are ten vents on each side of the bomb bay. The openings of the five forward vents face forward, the five aft vents face to the rear.

Left side

Left rear quarter shot

Left rear quarter shot

Vertical Stabilizer The yellow NASA tail band was added to the vertical stabilizer when the NB-52B was loaned from the Air Force to NASA in 1976. The black walkway stripes appear only on the left side of the stabilizer.

Right front quarter shot The right side of the NB-52B is covered in badges, text, and mission marks.

Right side nose The last four digits of the NB-52B's Air Force serial number, 0008, appear on each side of the nose. The NB-52B wears the old version of the Air Force Flight Test Center badge, which reads "AD INEXPLORATA" (Latin for "Toward the unknown") rather than saying "AIR FORCE FLIGHT TEST CENTER"

Right side nose The most recent change to the appearance of the NB-52B is the text reading DRYDEN FLIGHT RESEARCH CENTER and NASA. It was added in the Summer of 2004, so it appeared on the NB-52B on only one launch mission. Aside from the addition of the mission marks, the markings of the NB-52B hadn't changed since 1976. I would rather see the NB-52B preserved as it appeared for 28 years, than as it appeared on only one launch.

Lower deck window The lower deck window was replaced with a metal plate sometime in 1994 - 1995.

NASA CREW CHIEFS The names of the NASA crew chiefs assigned to the NB-52B are stencilled below the lower deck window: G. Hall, D. Gullinger, M. Bondy, and D. Bain.

NB-52B Nose Art The nose art depicting a B-52 throwing an X-15 was first painted on the NB-52B by C. A. May in September 1964.

Air intakes and camera port A camera port was installed on the lower deck just above the alternator cooling air intakes. The yellow circle surrounds a static port for sensing air pressure.

History revealed by the mission marks

Mission Marks Many of the missions flown by the NB-52B are represented by the symbols in the rectangles at the right: 140 X-15 flights, 17 M2-F2 flights, 37 HL-10 flights, 27 X-24A flights, 41 F-15 RPRV flights, 9 SRB/DTV flights, and 29 F-15/SRV flights.

Thirty-five M2-F3 marks appear to the left of the mission tallys. Twenty-five marks include a red triangle indicating a rocket-powered flight. The NB-52B first carried the M2-F3 on May 22, 1970. The last M2-F3 launch occurred on December 20, 1972.

Forty-seven X-24B marks appear to the left of the M2-F3 marks. Although only two X-24B marks include the red triangle indicating a rocket-powered flight, the X-24B flew twelve powered flights. The NB-52B first carried the X-24B on July 19, 1973. The last X-24B launch occurred on November 26, 1975. Floodlights can be seen on either side of the X-24B marks.

Stickers The NB-52B has accumulated a collection of stickers below the M2-F3 marks. These include badges from the Experimental Aircraft Association, Tinker Air Force Base, Phoenix Air (illegible) Copperheads, 337th Test Squadron, MAINEiacs, 2953 CLSS, 931st Air Refueling Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Boeing Fire Department, and the 23rd Bomb Squadron. The blue sticker at the lower right is no longer readable, but it is the badge of the 562nd Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, which was based at the former George Air Force Base.

562nd Tactical Fighter Training Squadron badge The badge of the 562nd Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, which was based at the former George Air Force Base.

Mission Marks Two B-52 silhouettes at center represent Wake Vortex tests and one represents an F-16 Target Test. Ten marks represent flights by the F-15 Spin Research Vehicles, although the three vehicles were launched twenty-six times. The first F-15 SRV flight was launched on November 29, 1977 and the last was launched on July 15, 1981.

Mission Marks The NB-52B flew past a tower equipped with meteorological instruments near Idaho Falls, Idaho in October and December 1977. I have not determined the date of the F-16 Target Test.

Mission Marks Thirteen marks represent the Shuttle Reusable Booster/Drop Test Vehicle (SRB/DTV). Two horizontal silhouettes at upper right indicate captive carry flights flown on June 10, 1977. Below those silhouettes are two more representing the first series of six drops of the SRB/DTV, which began on June 15, 1977 and ended on September 12, 1978.

The nine SRB/DTV marks to the left represent a second series of drops of the SRB/DTV. Three large stabilizing fins were added to the SRB/DTV. The SRB/DTV silhouettes for the second series of drops show the fins. The first drop was scheduled for February 23, 1983, but the rear hooks on the X-15 pylon failed as the NB-52B was taxiing. The horizontal silhouette with the hook at the front represents that incident. The first of eight drops in the second series was flown on September 16, 1983. The last was flown on March 20, 1985. The parachutes separated from the SRB/DTV on one flight, which is represented by a silhouette with a ground line and Joshua Trees on each side.

Mission Marks This B-52 silhouette also represents the day that the hooks failed on the X-15 pylon. Very small letters underneath the silhouette read "T.F.H.B." (The F***ing Hook Broke).

Mission Marks Thirteen silhouettes at right represent flights of modified Ryan BQM-34 Firebee II drones in support of the Drones for Aeroelastic Structures Testing (DAST) program.

The two marks at the top represent flights of a nearly stock Firebee II. Three captive-carry flights were flown in November and December 1975, and July 1977. The Firebee II was launched from the NB-52B once on July 28, 1977.

The next two marks represent the Firebee II equipped with an instrumented wing called "Blue Streak". The NB-52B made one captive-carry flight and one launch of the Blue Streak in March 1979.

The six lower marks and two to the left represent the Drones for Aeroelastic Structures Testing. The first DAST drone was carried on the NB-52B for the first time on September 14, 1979. It was launched three times, the first time on October 2, 1979 and the last time on June 12, 1980. On the last flight, its right wing failed and the drone crashed in the desert. That flight is represented by the mark directly below the three bomb bay vents.

The second DAST drone was carried on its first captive carry flight on October 29, 1982. It was launched from the NB-52B once on November 3, 1982. DAST II made two more captive-carry flights in early 1983, but all subsequent launches were made from a Navy Lockheed DC-130A Hercules. The bottom silhouette in the left column is said to represent a launch of the DAST II drone from the DC-130A.

Nine marks to the left of the bomb bay vents represent drops of the F-111 Parachute Test Vehicle (PTV) from the bomb bay of the NB-52B. Increases in the weight of the F-111 escape module resulted in a requirement for a new parachute recovery system. The first series of eight PTV drops ran from February 1979 to August 1979.

The black rectangle appears to be a camera housing. There is a photo resolution target in the white rectangle above the camera housing. It looks like there once was a mirror on the X-15 pylon that reflected an image of the photo resolution target to the camera. I do not know the reason.

I have not identified the four bat-like marks below the camera housing.

Five more F-111 PTV marks appear to the left of the camera housing and photo target. A second test series of eleven PTV drops was conducted in 1982. The first drop of the second test series was flown on March 3, 1982. The last drop of the second PTV test series was flown in November 1982.

Mission Marks Thirty-eight silhouettes represent the two Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology (HiMAT) drones. Twenty-seven silhouettes have red flames indicating a powered flight. The NB-52B launched the first HiMAT drone fourteen times and the second HiMAT drone 12 times. The first captive-carry HiMAT flight was flown on July 11, 1979. The first HiMAT launch occurred on July 27, 1979 and the last occurred on January 12, 1983.

Nine marks represent a third series of drops of the SRB/DTV. I do not know the dates of those tests.

Mission Marks Twenty-three more F-111 PTV drop test marks appear below and to the left of the SRB/DTV marks. A third series of twelve PTV drops was conducted from July 7, 1987 to November 9, 1988. A fourth series of eleven PTV drops began in May 1989. The last drop of the fourth test series was flown in February 1990. Seven of the marks appear to show reefed parachutes.

One mark represents a parachute failure that resulted in the PTV impacting in the desert at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station.

Mission Marks Nine Orbital Sciences Pegasus sihouettes represent three captive carry flights and six launches. The NB-52B was the first airplane to launch a satellite into orbit on April 5, 1990. The NB-52B made its last Pegasus launch on August 3, 1994.

The original mission marks for the Pegasus were silhouettes of a winged horse. In June 2001, those marks were removed and replaced with silhouettes of the rocket. Other marks were removed and replaced at that time. Scuff marks can be seen where the old marks were removed.

Thirty four marks represent flights that the NB-52B made with a pair of J85 jet engines mounted on a pallet in the bomb bay to test fuel additives for the reduction of emissions of pullutants during supersonic cruise flight. The fuel additive tests were conducted in 1994 and 1995. The X-15 pylon was removed and a close-out structure was installed in the notch in the trailing edge of the wing for these tests.

Mission Marks Eight space shuttle silhouettes represent tests of the drag chute used to decelerate the orbiters when they land. These tests were high-speed taxi runs at speeds up to 192 knots. Four tests were conducted on Rogers Dry Lake in July and August 1990. Four tests were conducted on Runway 22 in Septebmer and October 1990. The bottom silhouette represents a test in which the drag chute separated from the NB-52B.

Fifteen marks represent more tests of the F-111 PTV. A new 85-foot diameter ring sail parachute system was developed for the F-111 crew module. A fifth series of four drops of the PTV were flown to test the new parachute in February and March 1991. A sixth series of ten drops was conducted from June 1991 to November 1991. A seventh series of five drops began in March 1992.

Five bomb bay vents can be seen in this picture. They open to the rear.

Mission Marks Twenty silhouettes represent twelve captive-carry flights and eight drops of the two X-38 Crew Return Vehicles. The NB-52B first carried the X-38 V-131 on August 2, 1997 and first launched it on March 12, 1998. The NB-52B first launched the X-38 V-132 on March 5, 1999. X-38 V-131 was modified and returned to flight as X-38 V-131R on November 2, 2000. The NB-52B last dropped X-38 V-131R on December 13, 2001.

Six silhouettes represent three captive-carry flights and three launches of the X-43A Hyper-X. The first captive-carry flight was flown on April 28, 2001 and the first Hyper-X stack was launched on June 2, 2001. The silhouette for that flight shows the stabilizers breaking away from the modified Pegasus booster. Each of the successful launches of the X-43A was preceded by a captive-carry flight. The final flight of the NB-52B launched the third Hyper-X stack on November 16, 2004.

T-THA...T-THA...T-THAT'S ALL FOLKS! T-THA...T-THA...T-THAT'S ALL FOLKS!

Mission Markings on NB-52B #008 by Tony Landis NASA Dryden photographer Tony Landis prepared a poster showing the entire array of NB-52B mission marks.

Modifications A video camera fairing, a movie camera housing and a floodlight were installed just above the right rear main landing gear door.

Stabilizer incidence markings Markings in front of the horizontal stabilizer indicate its angle of incidence.

X-15 pylon with X-43A adapter

X-15 pylon with X-43A adapter The outboard side of the X-15 pylon has been painted white. It has text reading HYPER-X and X-43. The old NASA meatball also graces the pylon.

X-15 pylon with X-43A adapter

X-15 pylon with X-43A adapter The inboard side of the pylon has always been painted matte black.

X-15 pylon with X-43A adapter

Bomb bay

Bomb bay Interior of the bomb bay looking forward. A rack in the middle of the bay holds a dozen high pressure nitrogen cylinders.

Bomb bay Interior of the bomb bay looking to the rear. This view shows the front end of the rack of nitrogen cylinders.

Bomb bay Interior of the bomb bay looking to the rear.

Bomb bay Bulkhead at the rear end of the bomb bay.

Side, Top, and Bottom Views

Right side view Right side view as of November 2004.

Right side view of fuselage Right side view of fuselage as of November 2004.

Right side view of fuselage as it appeared during the launch of the second X-43A Hyper-X stack in March 2004. Aside from the addition of mission marks, it had not changed appreciably since 1976.

Modifications Right side view of fuselage showing modifications.

Left side view of fuselage Left side view of fuselage as of November 2004. It has not changed appreciably since 1976.

Bottom view Bottom view.

Top view Top view.

NASA Mission Tally Missions Launches
North American X-15 161 106
Northrop M2-F2 13 13
Northrop M2-F3 34 27
Northrop HL-10 37 26
Martin-Marietta X-24A 31 25
Martin-Marietta X-24B 49 36
F-15 Remotely Piloted Research Vehicle (RPRV) 41 27
F-15 Spin Research Vehicle (SRV) 32 26
Shuttle Reusable Booster/Drop Test Vehicle (SRB/DTV) 22 14
Drones for Aeroelastic Structures Testing (DAST) 13 5
F-111 Parachute Test Vehicle (PTV) 57 57
Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology (HiMAT) 40 26
Orbital Sciences Pegasus 13 6
X-38 Crew Return Vehicle 21 8
X-43A Hyper-X 6 3


More NB-52B Displays

Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress dislays Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership.


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Balls Eight: History of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

Balls Eight: History of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

Balls Eight: History of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

It has been asserted that the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress, carrying Air Force serial 52-0008, can lay claim to being the airplane that has seen and participated in more history than any other single airplane. For forty-five years, the NB-52B was a fixture at Edwards Air Force Base. While the NB-52B is most famous for launching the three North American X-15 rocket planes, it continued to serve in the role of launch platform for a multitude of programs until its final mission on November 16, 2004. It was the oldest flying B-52 by nearly ten years.
The NB-52B launched the three X-15 hypersonic rocket planes.
It launched the Northrop HL-10, Northrop M2-F2/F3, Martin Marietta X-24A and Martin Marietta X-24B lifting bodies.
It simulated the steep, power off approach to landing used by the Space Shuttles.
It assisted in the collection of data about wake turbulence from large aircraft.
It served as an air-to-air gunnery target.
It launched 3/8-scale F-15 Remotely Piloted Research Vehicles (RPRV) and Spin Research Vehicles (SRV).
It launched a Ryan Firebee II drone and the Ryan Firebee based Drones for Aeroelastic Structures Testing (DAST).
It launched the Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology (HiMAT) RPRVs.
It dropped the 48,000-pound Space Shuttle Reusable Booster Drop Test Vehicle (SRB/DTV).
It released a simulated F-111 crew module from its bomb bay to evaluate new parachute recovery systems.
It was the first airplane to launch a satellite into orbit on the Orbital Sciences Pegasus booster.
It tested the drag chute used to decelerate space shuttle orbiters.
It tested pollution reducing fuel additives with a pair of jet engines mounted under its bomb bay.
It launched the X-38 Space Station Crew Return Vehicles.
It launched the X-43A Hyper-X Supersonic Combustion Ramjets.

The book is 200 pages long. It contains 246 color photographs, 89 black and white photographs, and 2 other illustrations.

You can preview the first several pages of the book.

Books are printed on demand by Lulu.com. When you order one, it is placed in your Lulu.com shopping cart. Lulu.com prints, packages, and ships the book direct to you.

Softcover


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Hardcover


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Put a copy of the hardcover edition of Balls Eight: History of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership in your Lulu.com shopping cart for $79.95.


Painting Guide for the Boeing Stratofortress Motherships

Painting Guide for the Boeing Stratofortress Motherships

Painting Guide for the Boeing Stratofortress Motherships

Revell has re-released Monogram's 1/72-scale Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress with X-15A-2 kit. You need this book to help you establish the appropriate paint scheme for any particular NB-52B mission that you want to model.

The book is 96 pages long.

You can preview the first several pages of the book.

Books are printed on demand by Lulu.com. When you order one, it is placed in your Lulu.com shopping cart. Lulu.com prints, packages, and ships the book direct to you.


Buy Painting Guide for the Boeing Stratofortress Motherships on Lulu.
Put a copy of the softcover edition of Painting Guide for the Boeing Stratofortress Motherships in your Lulu.com shopping cart for $44.95.


Balls Eight: Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

2014 calendar

You can buy a 2014 calendar featuring photographs of the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership that launched the X-15s in the 1960s and continued launching research vehicles until 2004.

Lockett Books Calendar Catalog: Balls Eight: Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

Lockett Books Calendar Catalog: Balls Eight: Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership

It has been asserted that the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress, carrying Air Force serial 52-0008, can lay claim to being the airplane that has seen and participated in more history than any other single airplane. This calendar features a dozen pictures of the NB-52B carrying some of the research vehicles that it launched over the years. Photo sources: Air Force, NASA, Richard Lockett, Brian Lockett:

North American X-15-1, 1960
North American X-15-3, 1963
North American X-15A-2, 1967
Northrop HL-10, 1969
Martin-Mariettta X-24A, 1970
Northrop M2-F3, 1972
Martin-Mariettta X-24B, 1973
Orbital Sciences Pegasus, 1989
Supersonic Supercruise, 1995
X-38 V-131R, 2000
X-43A Hyper-X, 2004

Buy my Balls Eight: Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership 2014 calendar at Lulu! Put a copy of the Balls Eight: Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress Mothership: 2014 calendar in your Lulu.com shopping cart for $16.95.

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Books about Lifting Bodies, Edwards Air Force Base, and the X-43 available from

The X-Planes: X-1 to X-45: 3rd Edition by Jay Miller The X-Planes: X-1 to X-45: 3rd Edition by Jay Miller

Flying Without Wings : Nasa Lifting Bodies and the Birth of the Space Shuttle by Milton O. Thompson Flying Without Wings : Nasa Lifting Bodies and the Birth of the Space Shuttle by Milton O. Thompson

Test Colors: The Aircraft of Muroc Army Airfield and Edwards Air Force Base by Rene Francillon Test Colors: The Aircraft of Muroc Army Airfield and Edwards Air Force Base by Rene Francillon

X-Planes at Edwards by Steve Pace X-Planes at Edwards (Enthusiast Color Series) by Steve Pace

Edwards Air Force Base : Open House at the USAF Flight Test Center 1957-1966 by Robert D. Archer 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

Angle of Attack : Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon by Mike Gray. The biography of Harrison Storms, who was instrumental in the development and operation of the X-15.

At the Edge of Space : The X-15 Flight Program by Milton O. Thompson. The story of test flying the X-15 from the point of view of the pilot.


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