In addition to Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, the U.S. is working on two other manned aerospace programs. The first is using the X-15, a piloted research vehicle, which flies as high as 50 miles above the Earth and at about 4,000 miles an hour, It is powered by a rocket engine but has wings and a tail, and can be controlled like an airplane. While the X-15 does not actually operate in space, vehicles similar to it will.
The other program is based on Project Dyna Soar. Dyna Soar will be launched like a missile, orbit the earth as a controlled satellite, and return through the atmosphere like an airplane. It is so named because it is expected that in the sky it will achieve boost-glide flight – also known as dynamic soaring. In space, the Dyna Soar pilot will be able to use rocket power to maneuver left or right thousands of miles in any flight path.
In the artist’s concept of the craft, the pilot of the Dyna Soar discards the no-longer need cockpit heat shield in order to land.
Image credit: Boeing
Image source: Numbers Station