As probably most of us know, the SR-71 Blackbird holds the altitude record for leveled flight for (manned) jet planes (and ground-launched planes) at 90,000 ft MSL. However, the very altitude record in leveled flight is probably held by a rocketplane, such as the Bell X-1 or the North American X-15. Is there an altitude record for leveled flight that surpassed that of the Blackbird? What's the record for the highest horizontal flight by a rocket (or any other type of) plane? May include unmanned ones.

Edit: To make it clear, my question asks for the altitude record of a winged aircraft that could sustain this altitude aerodynamically. But Abdullah answered my question anyway, it was the NASA Helios propeller craft (which looks a bit weird but still is a winged aircraft) that reached and sustained an altitude of 96900 ft (29,500 m). Wikipedia says this is the altitude record for aerodynamic horizontal flight.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Aviation.SE! Could you clarify what exactly you would count as a rocket-plane? Would the space shuttle count? $\endgroup$ – Bianfable Nov 6 '20 at 8:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Bianfable Thank you. No, because the Space Shuttle didn't fly aerodynamically leveled with engine on. The point is that the rocket-engine is on while flying. So no gliding unless the altitude can be maintained regardless (like by a sailplane). $\endgroup$ – Giovanni Nov 6 '20 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Abdullah Thank you. That's actually an answer rather than a comment since the link states it's the highest winged craft in leveled flight ever. Why would it be difficult for rocketplanes to fly horizontally? $\endgroup$ – Giovanni Nov 6 '20 at 10:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Giovanni: "Why would it be difficult for rocketplanes to fly horizontally?" – It's not difficult, it just doesn't make sense. If you're aerodynamically flying horizontally, then you don't need a rocket. If you need a rocket that means you expect to be flying where there's no oxygen, but then you are going up not level, and you're not flying aerodynamically. $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Nov 6 '20 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Giovanni -- wouldn't "sustained horizontal flight" or something to that effect be clearer than "levelled"? I'm assuming it's the flight path not the pitch attitude that you actually want to specify. (Or maybe both?) Plus the issue of whether instantaneously level is sufficient--? At present the question is somewhat unclear. $\endgroup$ – quiet flyer Nov 6 '20 at 17:17

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