Model of Boeing X-20 Unveiled in Armstrong Hall

Event Date: November 4, 2013
At a ceremony on October 18, 2013 in the Kurz atrium of Armstrong Hall, representatives from The Boeing Company joined Leah Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering, in unveiling a replica of the X-20 Dyna-Soar space vehicle — a forerunner to the space shuttle.

At a ceremony on October 18, 2013 in the Kurz atrium of Armstrong Hall, senior representatives from The Boeing Company joined Leah Jamieson, the John A. Edwardson Dean of Engineering, in unveiling a mock-up of the X-20 Dyna-Soar space vehicle — a forerunner to the space shuttle.

Dean Leah Jamieson welcomed the Boeing team to Purdue which included Engineering, Operations & Technology Chief Engineer Mark Burgess, BSAAE'78, MSAA'79, MSIA'82, OAE’10; DEA’13, and Darryl W. Davis, BSAAE’78; OAE’08; DEA’ 10, President, Phantom Works, Boeing Defense, Space and Security and a member of the school’s Steering Advisory Council. Senior Manger Research and Technology, Matt Symonds, spoke on the background of how the project came about, and its timeline.

On June 16, 1958, Boeing and the Martin Co. were selected to compete for the space plane, then designated the Dyna-Soar for Dynamic Soaring. Boeing would build the manned space glider and Martin would provide the booster rocket.

On March 15, 1962, four U.S. Air Force test pilots and two NASA pilots were assigned to the Dyna-Soar program. One of the NASA pilots was Purdue AAE alumnus Neil Armstrong. 

The Dyna-Soar design contract was awarded to Boeing on Nov. 9, 1959, and designated the X-20 on June 19, 1962. It was designed to be a 35.5-foot piloted reusable space vehicle, had a sharply swept delta 20.4-foot-span wing and a graphite and zirconia composite nose cap and used three retractable struts for landing.

Eleven manned flights were to be launched from Cape Canaveral Fla., starting in November 1964. Dyna-Soar's first orbital flight was tentatively scheduled for early 1965 once a series of unmanned orbital flight tests were successfully completed

The X-20 reached the mockup stage. $410 million had been spent on its development, and a team of astronauts was training to fly it. However, the U.S. government canceled the program on December 10, 1963, because Dyna-Soar had no viable military mission and was too expensive for a research vehicle. Congress diverted the X-20 funding to the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, which used McDonnell-built Gemini capsules. The partially completed X-20 prototype and the mockup were scrapped, as well as initial tooling set up for a production line for 10 space planes.

Although it never flew, the X-20 Dyna Soar helped pioneer the way for the Space Shuttle and the Boeing Engineers had accomplished.

The replica will be permanently housed in the Kurz Atrium and is scheduled to be hung early 2014. 

Photo caption L ~ R Mark Burgess, Engineering, Operations & Technology Chief Engineer; Darryl Davis, President, Phantom Works; Leah Jamieson, Purdue Dean of Engineering; Senior Manger Research and Technology, Matt Symmonds; Dr. Tom Shih, Professor and Head, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Dr. John Sullivan, Director, Purdue Center for Advanced Manufacturing