Boeing’s Phantom Ray uninhabited aircraft test bed has arrived at Edwards AFB, Calif., for flight testing. The aircraft did not make the 1,800 mile journey to Edwards from St. Louis on its own power, but rather carried in a special cradle atop a modified NASA 747 used to ferry space shuttles. In fact, Phantom Ray became the first aircraft other than the space shuttles to hitch a ride on the shuttle carrier aircraft. On the day before the Dec. 14 ferry ride to Edwards, Boeing engineers conducted a test ride from St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport to verify that both aircraft were aerodynamically and structurally safe for the West Coast journey, according to the company’s release. Succeeding in this endeavor was “a real feat of engineering,” said Phantom Ray program manager Craig Brown. Phantom Ray completed ground taxi tests in St. Louis in November.
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.