North American X-15

The North American X-15 rocket plane was perhaps the most important of the USAF/USN X-series of experimental aircraft. The X-15 set numerous speed and altitude records in the early 1960s, reaching the edge of space and bringing back valuable data that was used in the design of later aircraft and spacecraft.

North American X-15


As with many of the X-aircraft, the X-15 was designed to be carried aloft under the wing of a B-52. The fuselage was long and cylindrical, with fairings towards the rear giving it a flattened look, and it had thick wedge-shaped dorsal and ventral fins.

North American X-15

The retractable landing gear consisted of a nose wheel and two skids — to provide sufficient clearance part of the ventral fin had to be jettisoned before landing. The two XLR-11 rocket engines of the initial model X-15A delivered 36 kN (8,000 lbf) of thrust; the "real" engine that came later was a single XLR-99 that delivered 254 kN (57,000 lbf) at sea level, and 311 kN (70,000 lbf) at peak altitude.

North American X-15

The first flight was an unpowered test made by Scott Crossfield on June 8, 1959, who followed up with the first powered flight on September 17. The first flight with the XLR-99 was on 15 November 1960.

In July and August, 1963, pilot Joe Walker crossed the 100 km altitude mark twice, becoming the first person to enter space twice.

The second X-15A was rebuilt after a landing accident. It was lengthened by about 0.74 m (2.4 ft), received a pair of auxiliary fuel tanks slung under the fuselage, and was given a heat-resistant surface treatment, the result being called the X-15A-2. It first flew June 28, 1964, and eventually reached a speed of 7,274 km/h (4,520 mi/h or 2,021 m/s).

North American X-15

Specifications (X-15)

General characteristics
Crew: 1
Length: 50.7 ft (15.45 m)
Wingspan: 22.3 ft (6.8 m)
Height: 13.5 ft (4.12 m)
Wing area: 200 ft² (18.6 m²)
Empty: 14,600 lb (6,620 kg)
Loaded: 34,000 lb (15,420 kg)
Maximum takeoff: 34,000 lb (15,420 kg)
1x Thiokol XLR99-RM-2 liquid-fuel rocket engine, 70,400 lbf (313 kN) thrust

Maximum speed: 4,520 mph (7,274 km/h) Mach 6.72
Range: 280 miles (450 km)
Service ceiling: 67 miles (108 km)
Rate of climb: 60,000 ft/min (18,000 m/min)




(This text was adapted from )(GFDL)
Donate now!

You can help Wikipedia change the world! Donate now!