Aviation News

December 14, 2010

Boeing Phantom Ray UAV Hitches Piggyback Ride Aboard NASA Space Shuttle Carrier

Boeing’s new Phantom Ray unmanned combat aicraft took to the air for the first time on Monday, with some help from one of NASA’s 747 Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA).

Boeing Phantom Ray 747 Space Shuttle Carrier N905NA

Like a mosquito on the back of a cow, the Boeing Phantom Ray UAV prototype takes off aboard a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (N905NA). (Photo courtesy of Boeing)

The pair took a 50 minute flight out of Lambert St. Louis International Airport (STL) ahead of their upcoming trip to the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where Phantom Ray will undergo ground and high-speed taxi testing. The new UAV’s first free flight is expected in early 2011.

“This is exciting not just because it’s the first time that an aircraft other than the space shuttle has flown on the SCA, but also because it puts Phantom Ray that much closer to making its first flight,” said Craig Brown, Phantom Ray program manager for Boeing.

The SCA used yesterday is a heavily modified Boeing 747-100 registered N905NA originally operated by American Airlines. It, along with sister ship N911NA, are normally used to transport Space Shuttles back to their Kennedy Space Center launch site in Florida when conditions force them to land at Edwards AFB.