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Balls 8
A NASA TF-104G flies chase on the NB-52B Balls 8 in September 1979.
Type Boeing RB-52B/NB-52B Stratofortress
Manufacturer Boeing Aircraft Company
Serial 52-008
Owners and operators United States Air Force
Preserved at Edwards Air Force Base, California

Balls 8 was a NASA Boeing NB-52B mothership.[1] It derives its nickname from its NASA tail number 52-008: leading zeroes plus the number 8. Among USAF personnel it is common practice to refer to aircraft whose tail number is a single number preceded by multiple zeros as "Balls" and the last number of its tail number.[Note 1] It was retired from active service with NASA on December 17, 2004 after almost 50 years flying service.[2] Balls 8 was famous for dropping aerospace research vehicles for 106 flights of the X-15.[3] Like its NB-52A predecessor, a pylon was fitted under the right wing between the fuselage and the inboard engines with a 6-by-8-foot (1.8 m × 2.4 m) section removed from the right wing flap in order to accommodate the X-15's tail. It flew a total of 159 captive-carry and launch missions in support of the X-15 program, from June 1959 until October 1968. It also flew missions supporting the X-24, HiMAT, Lifting Body vehicles, X-43, early launches of the OSC Pegasus rocket and numerous others.

Balls 8 was originally an RB-52B[1] that was first flown on June 11, 1955; and entering service with NASA on June 8, 1959. It was the oldest active B-52 still in service at the time of its retirement. It was modified at North American Aviation's Palmdale facility in order to allow it to carry the X-15. The modified bomber first was used to launch the X-15 on its fifth flight, on January 23, 1960. Balls 8 was the last B-52 in service of any type other than the H model. It also had the lowest total air time of any operational B-52. It is on permanent public display near the north gate of Edwards Air Force Base.[1]

See also

  • List of NASA aircraft


  1. Balls 8 has "0008" on its nose... has "008" on its tail... has "52-008" stenciled on the left emergency hatch door... but, the manufacturer's plate has not been confirmed. However, at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Balls 5 has "RB-52B" and "52-005" on its manufacturer's plate. Since these two birds were on the same production line, one could assume the manufacturer's plate would carry the same nomenclature.

Coordinates: 34°59′34″N 117°53′00″W / 34.9929°N 117.8834°W / 34.9929; -117.8834

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