UNVEILING THE X-15 (Feb, 1959)

And yes, both the Air Force and NASA say it went into space.

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Model: North American X-15, a manned, hypersonic research aircraft. Length: 50 it. Height: 13 ft.

Wing area: 200 sq. ft. in a 25° sweep-back. Weight at launching: 31,275 lbs. Cargo: Pilot plus 1,300 lbs. of instruments. Fabrication: Inconel-X, titanium and stainless steel to withstand temperatures in excess of 1,000°F.

Engine: Initial tests with two Reaction Motors XLR-11 engines. Test flight with single Reaction Motors XLR-99 Pioneer rocket engine.

Fuel: LOX and liquid ammonia. Thrust: 50,000 lbs. Speed: 3,600 mph.

Landing gear: Dual nose wheel and rear skids.

Assignments: To research flight conditions beyond the earth’s atmosphere. To increase knowledge of aerodynamic heating and heat transfer. To provide answers on control requirements for vehicles operating in a near vacuum.

Test flight date: February, 1959. Pilot: Scott Crossfield, North American test pilot. The X-15 will then be turned over to NASA and Air Force pilots for further tests. Cost: Under Navy, Air Force and NASA contracts through 1960—$121,500,000.

FIRST ROLL-OUT, at top of page, shows X-15 on dual nose wheels and temporary rear dolly. Left above, exhaust of twin XLR-11 engines. Below, actuator of bottom speed brake.

NOSE CONTOUR and trailing edges of wings are surprisingly blunt. In flight, pitch and yaw will be controlled by small ballistic rockets set into nose and wingtips. Bottom part of tail was taken off for rollout. will be replaced for flight. Only movable surfaces on the wings are the flaps.

DROP LAUNCHING is shown in drawing below. After release from B-52, the X-15 will rocket upward to 100-mile altitude.

  1. Toronto says: April 24, 20127:02 am

    Still one of my favorites.

  2. JMyint says: April 24, 201210:54 am

    A favorite of mine too. The first aircraft to fly into space.

  3. Hirudinea says: April 24, 20124:52 pm

    @ JMyint – I thought it really went into space, close, but never past the 100km mark (or whatever the space line is.)

  4. Toronto says: April 24, 20126:25 pm

    Space, schmace. She flew in a black sky at insane rates of speed.

  5. hwertz says: April 24, 20129:33 pm

    Per wikipedia, the X-15 actually exceeded 100km twice, , in 1963. (105.9 and 107.8km). The Navy considered the cutoff 80km, quite a few flights exceeded that.

  6. Hirudinea says: April 25, 201211:53 am

    @ hwertz – Really? I stand corrected. Anyway its a shame it wasn’t developed, its a better way to get into space than a straight rocket.

  7. JMyint says: April 25, 20122:14 pm

    In July of 1962 Robert White piloted the X-15 to an altitude of 314,750 feet making him the first “Winged Astronaut” and the fourth American in space. Originally before NASA and the Mercury program the Air force had planned to fly the first American into space and the vehicle was to be the X-15.


  8. Charlene says: April 25, 20124:32 pm

    Charlie, did you notice that comments are off on the new posts?

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