Model of Boeing X-20 goes on display in the Herman & Heddy Kurz atrium of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering

Event Date: January 13, 2014
The model of the Boeing X-20 was lifted into position in the atrium of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering on Friday January 10.

The model of the Boeing X-20 was lifted into position in the Herman & Heddy Kurz atrium of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering on Friday January 10, 2014.

The mock-up of the X-20 Dyna-Soar space vehicle was unveiled at a ceremony on October 18, 2013 with senior representatives from The Boeing Company in attendance which included Engineering, Operations & Technology Chief Engineer Mark Burgess, BSAAE'78, MSAA'79, MSIA'82, OAE’10; DEA’13; 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 and Matt Symonds, Senior Manger Research and Technology.

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. Two of the pilots chosen were Purdue alumni Neil Armstrong (class of '55) and Henry C. Gordon (class of '50).

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 helped pioneer the way for the Space Shuttle.

Photos of the X-20 being lifted into position can be found on the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics Facebook page here.