Past and present designs include Dyna-Soar, HOTOL, Skylon, and, most recently and successfully, Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne. Lifting bodies are used in prototype experimental tests of space plane concepts. Neither the Space Shuttle nor the Soviet Buran are true spaceplanes in the that they depend on conventional rocket boosters to get them into orbit. SpaceShipOne, like the earlier X-15 rocket plane, uses a carrier plane to lift it to high altitude at which its rocket engines is fired, although in this case the entire vehicle is reusable.
Future orbital spaceplanes may take off, ascend, descend, and land like conventional aircraft, providing true single-stage-to-orbit capability. Proponents of scramjet technology often cite such a vehicle as being a possible application of this type of engine.
Individuals involved in space plane design have included Alan Bond, Krafft Ehricke, and Eugene Sänger. See also air-breathing engine, HOPE, and Hermes.
Related categories• MANNED SPACEFLIGHT
• AERODYNAMICS AND AERONAUTICS
• EXPERIMENTAL PLANES
• ADVANCED PROPULSION CONCEPTS
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