The X-24A lifting-body research aircraft begins its rocket-powered flight after being launched from the wing of NASA's B-52 mothership during a 1970 research flight. 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 aircraft, a "B" model built in 1952 and first flown on June 11, 1955, is the oldest B-52 in flying status and has been used on some of the most significant research projects in aerospace history. Some of the significant projects supported by B-52 008 include the X-15, the lifting bodies, HiMAT (highly maneuverable aircraft technology), Pegasus, validation of parachute systems developed for the space shuttle program (solid-rocket-booster recovery system and the orbiter drag chute system), and the X-38. The B-52 served as the launch vehicle on 106 X-15 flights and flew a total of 159 captive-carry and launch missions in support of that program from June 1959 to October 1968. Between 1966 and 1975, the B-52 served as the launch aircraft for 127 of the 144 wingless lifting body flights. In the 1970's and 1980's the B-52 was the launch aircraft for several aircraft at what is now the Dryden Flight Research Center, to study spin-stall, high-angle-of attack, and maneuvering characteristics. It also supported eight orbiter (space shuttle) drag chute tests in 1990. In addition, the B-52 served as the air launch platform for the first six Pegasus space boosters. During its many years of service, the B-52 has undergone several modifications. The first major modification was made by North American Aviation (now part of Boeing) in support of the X-15 program.
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