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  June 8, 1959: Remembering X-15's first flight

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Author Topic:   June 8, 1959: Remembering X-15's first flight
machbusterman
Member

Posts: 1657
From: Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland
Registered: May 2004

posted 06-08-2009 03:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for machbusterman   Click Here to Email machbusterman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fifty years ago today Scott Crossfield made the first flight (unpowered glide) in the North American X-15 at Edwards AFB. The first of what was to be 199 flights of that program. The X-15 program was without doubt the most successful flight test program of all the rocket powered "X-Planes", the X-15 providing hypersonic data which proved invaluable in the design of the Space Shuttle.

Launching Scotty on that flight were Charlie Bock and Jack Allavie. We lost Scotty just over three years ago when his Cessna came down in Georgia and we also lost Jack in August 2006. I have nothing but admiration for all that were involved in the X-15 program.

In memory of the pilots selected to fly the X-15:

  • Iven Kincheloe
  • Mike Adams - Astronaut
  • Joe Walker - Astronaut
  • Jack McKay - Astronaut
  • Forrest Petersen
  • Bob Rushworth - Astronaut
  • Milt Thompson
  • Pete Knight - Astronaut
  • Scott Crossfield
  • Al White

E2M Lem Man
Member

Posts: 793
From: Los Angeles CA. USA
Registered: Jan 2005

posted 06-08-2009 03:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
North American Aviation was trying to build a spaceship with 1950's airplane technology. It started in 1952 with the idea of building an airplane to enter space at high speed.

The main reason why it took so long to get from page to hardware were the unknowns. Every little thing from rivet to the APU's to spacesuit had to be developed from scratch.

Do you know why the Mercury astronauts had silver suits? They were adapted from the X-15 design.

Few know that the original X-15 proposal called for just normal flight suits. It was Scott Crossfield who championed the creation of those first 'space suits' from his knowledge of the needs for pilots at that high altitude.

There were many delays until they got to June 8th,1959 and Scott was always there in the summer desert heat, not in the air conditioned truck - because he felt that the crew worked better seeing THE MAN in the silver suit. They could see he was working as hard as they were!

Rick Boos
Member

Posts: 828
From: Celina,Ohio U.S.A.
Registered: Feb 2000

posted 06-08-2009 07:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick Boos   Click Here to Email Rick Boos     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is hard to believe that it was 50 years ago today... unreal! I can still remember listening to the news reports of the X-15 fights on my little transistor radio. There was never live coverage like the Mercury shots, but that's the way Scotty wanted it. Scotty was a great guy and and a good friend of mine, (I even named my son after him) and it's hard to believe he is gone. He was quite a guy! For all the younger members on collectSPACE I would urge you to please read his book "Always Another Dawn". Godspeed Scotty!

Jurg Bolli
Member

Posts: 520
From: Albuquerque, NM
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 06-09-2009 10:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am also a great admirer of the whole X-15 program, they did a lot of great work.

albatron
Member

Posts: 2103
From: Stuart, Florida, USA
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 06-09-2009 01:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And let us recognize those left.

Bob White, Bill Dana, Joe Engle, Neil Armstrong and lets not forget John Manke who was selected but never got a chance either.

Aztecdoug
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Posts: 1330
From: Huntington Beach
Registered: Feb 2000

posted 06-09-2009 03:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aztecdoug   Click Here to Email Aztecdoug     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Whenever I think of the X-15 I have to think of Scott Crossfield. Just amazing that they had the vision to create this type of technology over 50 years ago.

The X-15 had to be the coolest X plane ever. The coolest spaceship? Apollo LM. Then you have Neil Armstrong who got to fly them both. Joe Engle, X-15 and Shuttle... Robert White personally broke Mach 4, 5 and 6 in the X-15! I could just go on and on...

albatron
Member

Posts: 2103
From: Stuart, Florida, USA
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 06-12-2009 08:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bob White actually set 8 records in the X-15. The ones you list Doug, plus first winged vehicle into space to boot. First to fly above 200,000' and 300,000', above 3,000 MPH and 4,000 MPH.

I do believe the X-15 program is arguably the one program that was the most succesful of all flight test programs. It's investigation into hypersonic flight paved the way for many things, not the least of which was our space program.

Dennis Jenkins's talk last October at Dryden about the program was significant in that he compared that program to the Constellation program of today.

When the X-15 pranged, they figured it out, fixed it and did it again. No committees, no investigations, just a bunch of guys with wrenches, short sleeves, ties and pocket protectors. They got to work and Bobs your Uncle.

Today? When something goes awry, it's form a committee to see if a committee needs to be formed to investigation a committees need. After hearing his talk, it makes you wonder if it'll ever get off the ground.

Oh for the days of X-15 and Apollo. That spirit, sadly, is long gone.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-17-2009 11:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA: The X-15, the Pilot and the Space Shuttle
Fifty years ago in 1959, test pilot Scott Crossfield threw the switch to ignite the twin XLR-11 engines of his North American Aviation X-15 rocket plane and begin the storied test program's first powered flight.

It was a real kick in the pants.

"The drop from the B-52 carrier aircraft was pretty abrupt, and then when you lit that rocket a second or two later you definitely felt it,” said Joe Engle, another X-15 test pilot and member of the same exclusive fraternity of flyboys that included Crossfield and the eventual first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. All took the X-15 to speeds and altitudes that extended the frontiers of flight.

The X-15 was a research scientist's dream. The experimental, rocket-boosted aircraft flew 199 flights with 12 different pilots at the controls from 1959 through 1968. It captured vital data on the effects of hypersonic flight on man and machine that proved invaluable to the nation's aeronautics researchers, including NASA and developers of the space shuttle.

"That first powered flight was a real milestone in a program that we still benefit from today," said Engle.

Engle knows what he's talking about.

NASA also has published a new interactive feature: X-15: To the Edge of Space.

micropooz
Member

Posts: 1239
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 09-18-2009 04:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Outstanding website!

And to expound on Engle's statement about really feeling the engine kick in - Milt Thompson said and wrote that the X-15 was the only airplane that he flew where he was GLAD that the engine quit!

E2M Lem Man
Member

Posts: 793
From: Los Angeles CA. USA
Registered: Jan 2005

posted 09-18-2009 01:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was glad to see that I am not the only one that loves the "Black Bullet".

It is amazing that with the X-15's first flights in 1959 we brought in an age of going into space that culminated 10 years later with the first landing on the moon by one of her pilots - Neil Armstrong.

Also her flights ended on the day before man left for the Moon the first time, Dec. 20, 1968 after a last attempt to fly her on her 200th flight had to be aborted as it snowed - SNOWED! - in the high Mojave desert at Edwards.

"I felt that this was a sign that we should not try for the 200th flight" said Paul Bickle, the X-15 NASA Manager, and director of Dryden research center.

X-15 number #1, 66670 is in the central hall facing SpaceShipOne at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Jurg Bolli
Member

Posts: 520
From: Albuquerque, NM
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 09-18-2009 04:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No, you are not the only one who is intrigued by the X-15!

alanh_7
Member

Posts: 889
From: Ajax, Ontario, Canada
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 09-18-2009 07:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I will second that.

I just finished reading the book "Hypersonic: The Story of the North American X-15". I picked it up while at the Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton two weeks ago where I was able to see the X-15A2 up close.

I was really amazed when looking through the cockpit window at how little head room there is. The clearance between the canopy frame and helmet must have been about an inch on either side.

Truly an amazing vehicle and flight test program.

E2M Lem Man
Member

Posts: 793
From: Los Angeles CA. USA
Registered: Jan 2005

posted 11-02-2009 12:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This week on Nov. 5 is the 50th anniversary of X-15 number 2 (66671), the infamous powered flight where it broke in two behind the cockpit. Known as the shortest flight for that aircraft in the X-15 program (after dragging it's belly on the dry lake bed runway!) Scott Crossfield called it "the back to the drawing board flight".

SpaceSteve
Member

Posts: 330
From: San Antonio TX, USA
Registered: Apr 2004

posted 03-23-2010 11:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceSteve   Click Here to Email SpaceSteve     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone know where one could find a definitive list of X-15 flights/dates? I know wikipedia has one, but I'm not sure of it's accuracy.

Editor's note: Threads merged.

Jurg Bolli
Member

Posts: 520
From: Albuquerque, NM
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 03-23-2010 12:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jurg Bolli   Click Here to Email Jurg Bolli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The above mentioned book "Hypersonic" has ALL the information you'll ever want on the X-15. Or the new NASA book by Jenkins.

SpaceSteve
Member

Posts: 330
From: San Antonio TX, USA
Registered: Apr 2004

posted 03-23-2010 02:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceSteve   Click Here to Email SpaceSteve     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you Jurg... I just went to my local Borders Books and bought a copy.

E2M Lem Man
Member

Posts: 793
From: Los Angeles CA. USA
Registered: Jan 2005

posted 03-23-2010 04:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for E2M Lem Man     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You can find another version of the list and all the X-15 manuals you would like to have in Apogee Books "X-15- the official reports" edited by Rob Godwin.

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