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Starting with the legendary Heinkel He 176, these unorthodox planes broke the sound barrier and other records. My question is: What was the last rocket plane to be produced?

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, or the Opel glider, launched by firework-type rocket motors. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ Google for Oper-Sander or Julius Hatry RAK.1 and you will be able to shift the birth of rocket planes quite a bit forward from the He-176. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ It would depend on just where you draw the line between "plane" and "spaceship". Answers could be the Rocket Racing LEague's "Rocket Racer", or Virgin Galactic's "SpaceShipTwo" or even if you want to push it SPaceX's StarShip, if you accept a definition of plane that fits "flies and lands using active aerodynamic support" $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 5:39

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Spaceship Two https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceShipTwo currently flying (at least as of July 2021: https://www.theverge.com/2021/9/29/22701195/faa-virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-cleared-investigation )

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  • $\begingroup$ D'oh! I forgot about Virgin Galactic! Didn't they fly paying passengers (or at least non-employees) just days before New Shepard's first human-carrying flight? $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 0:06
  • $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon they did. Not sure I'd call it an rocket aircraft rather than a winged rocket but that's semantics. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ It glides when the rocket is shut down, and briefly before ignition, just like the X-15 did -- but it's more advanced in many ways (though designed mainly for altitude rather than speed). To my eye, it's an airplane with a big rocket engine. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Zeiss Ikon: Though wasn't the X-15 primarily designed for altitude? At least that's what I remember: several military X-15 pilots getting "astronaut wings" because of the altitude they reached: spaceline.org/united-states-manned-space-flight/… $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ X-15 was designed both for altitude and speed -- and there's no way Spaceship Two would hold up to the Mach 6 the X-15's record flight obtained (melted some stainless steel parts of the airplane). Spaceship Two is only made to go high and let passengers have maximum microgravity time. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 19:29
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Rocket Racer was a one-design air racing class founded in 2005, to be powered by a small ethylox rocket engine. The airframe was a Velocity (kit plane) with some modifications (Rocket Racing League bought the manufacturer, which has since spun off and is back to producing kits) -- and while it's not a commercial production aircraft, three were built between 2006 and 2008. At least one demonstration aircraft flew several times, demonstrating (among other things) rapid turn around (a big deal in rocket circles), ground takeoff and sufficient endurance to race, and safe operation.

The racing league that was to have featured these airplanes failed on financial grounds, and production was halted by the other teams that were originally to have founded the league, but these were solely rocket-powered racing aircraft built in the 21st century!

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