Watch these rare photos of NASA’s white B-52H Stratofortress refueling from an Air Force tanker

NASA’s Dryden Research Center operated a B-52H as an air launch platform for advanced aerospace research vehicles.

The mothership plane, a former Air Force bird serialled 61-0025, was based at Edwards Air Force Base, on California, where it replaced the former B model, that was involved in some of the most significant endeavours in aerospace history.

The aircraft had to takeover the captive carry mission after the famous NASA #008 B-52B was retired. However, a refocus towards space programs diminished the budget for aeronautical programs and it was decided that NASA’s B-52 would be returned to the USAF: it flew for the last time from Dryden on May 9, 2008.

Whilst you can find many official and unofficial images of the NASA’s Stratofortress online, you won’t find any showing the all-white, civilian B-52 taking fuel from an aerial refueler, because air-to-air refueling (AAR) was not needed by NASA during its tests.

Still, the images in this post (H/T to Team Stratofortress for finding them) prove that some plugs with an Air Force KC-135 refueler were conducted every now and then, most probably to keep aircrew’s currencies even if there was no actual need to launch the Administration’s mothership on round-the-globe round trip missions.


Image credit: author unknown, via Team Stratofortress

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. What is the date on those photos? I believe that NASA stopped using that aircraft many years ago. They only operated it for a short period of time.

      • That refers to the two B-52Bs that NASA operated. They retired one, then continued using 008 (“Balls Eight”) until 2004. I think they acquired the B-52H then and used that for about a year and then retired it because they had not need for it. That information is available on the internets somewhere. Balls Eight is at the Edwards North Gate. I have a bunch of pictures of it.

  2. Training is important! If the NASA B-52 ever needs air refueling its possible. Better than he loss of the aircraft from fuel starvation.

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