The Boeing NB-52B "Balls 8" was withdrawn from active duty on this day in 2004.
An aircraft being retired/withdrawn from active duty is nothing abnormal.
But this NB-52B was a special aircraft, for several reasons.
NASA Lockheed TF-104G Starfighter (N824) and NASA 008, known as “Balls 8” a Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress, 52-008
Balls 8 started its life as a Boeing RB-52B-10-BO Stratofortress. It earned its nickname from its military identification 008. The first flight for the aircraft was on the 11th of June 1955, four years later on the 8th of June 1959 the aircraft was handed over to NASA, who would be the 'operator' the US Air Force remained the owner. was now a Boeing NB-52B.
Before being able to use the aircraft as a launch vehicle the aircraft underwent extensive modifications at the Air Force Plant 42, in Palmdale California. After North American Aviation finished the required modifications the aircraft had a new designation assigned, it
On the picture left an X-15 is mounted on the pylon under the wing of the mothership, this pylon was part of the modifications. With the modifications complete Balls 8 was ready to carry the X-15 to its launch altitude. NASA employed a fleet of 2 modified Boeing B-52's to launch the X-15's. The other aircraft was an older NB-52A, with BuNo. 52-003. Balls 8 carried an X-15 for the first time on the 23rd of January 1960, it would carry an X-15 under its wing on 159 flights, on 106 of these flights the X-15 was actually launched. After completion of the X-15, the aircraft would continue its active service life with NASA, launching all sorts of vehicles NASA test programs. The righthand fuselage of Balls 8 is filled with mission graphics. It was the oldest B-52 of the US AIrforce fleet, with the lowest amount of flight hours.
A visual reminder of the missions flown by “mothership” Balls 8
Boeing B-52 general specifications;
Crew 5 - aircraft commander - pilot
- radar navigator
- electronic warfare officer
Power plant 8 Pratt & Whitney engines TF33-P-3/103 turbofan
Thrust Each engine up to 17,000 lbs
Wingspan 185 ft (56.4 m)
Length 159 ft, 4 in (48.5 m)
Height 40 ft, 8 in (12.4 m)
Weight Approximately 185,000 lbs (83,250 kg)
MTOW 488,000 lbs (219,600 kg)
Fuel Capacity 312,197 lbs
Payload 70,000 lbs (31,500 kg)
Speed 650 mph (Mach 0.86)
Range 8,800 mi (7,652 nautical miles)
Ceiling 50,000 ft (15,150 m)
Balls 8 lands on a runway marked on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, California, drag chute deployed.