During the 1960’s-1970’s, in the search of the ideal small and lightweight manned reusable spacecraft.design, NASA explored some lifting bodies shapes as a major area of research. With the lift generated by its fuselage instead of wings, this kind a aircraft has many advantages, but also certain serious control., configuration and structural problems. After a thorough test program lifting bodies were discharged for immediate future use: the Space Shuttle employed a more conventional delta-wing tailless configuration.
This drawing depicts the designs proposed by Ames (M2-F1 & M1-L half-cones) and by Langley (lenticular bodies). They intended to built a basic airframe structure to test the three designs. In the end, of the three shapes considered only one passed into full-size proof-of concept stage: the modified half-cone at the left was Northrop built as the M2-F2/3.
Nonetheless NASA’s lack of interest then, the lifting body concept has resurfaced later in a number of advanced space programs: X-33, X-38, Dream Chaser, etc.