By Ty Greenlees
/ Published October 12, 2021
North American X-15A-2 on display in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Space Gallery.The X-15 was an important tool for developing spaceflight in the 1960s, and pilots flying above 50 miles altitude in the X-15 earned astronaut wings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)
Bell X-1B on display in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Research and Development Gallery. The X-1B was one of a series of rocket-powered experimental airplanes designed to investigate supersonic flight problems. The X-1B’s flight research primarily related to aerodynamic heating and the use of small “reaction” rockets for directional control. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ty Greenlees)
DAYTON, Ohio - On Saturday, Oct. 16, visitors will have the opportunity to look inside the X-15A-2 rocket plane that reached the blazing speed of Mach 6.7 in October of 1967. The X-15 was launched in midair from a B-52 “mothership” at about 45,000 feet. Once its powerful rocket ignited, the X-15 streaked upward to the limits of the atmosphere, then glided unpowered to land on a dry lake bed. Typical flights lasted about 10 minutes. This aircraft is the second of the three X-15s. North American modified it for even greater speed, added large orange and white propellant tanks and lengthened the fuselage about 18 inches, which resulted in it becoming the fastest X-15 to fly. It was delivered to the museum in 1969.
In addition, visitors will also be able to see the cockpit of the Bell X-1B, just a few steps away from the X-15. The X-1B was one of a series of rocket-powered experimental airplanes designed to investigate supersonic flight problems. The X-1B’s flight research primarily related to aerodynamic heating and the use of small “reaction” rockets for directional control.
The X-1B tests played an important role in developing the control systems for the later X-15.On test missions, the X-1B was carried under a "mother" airplane and released between 25,000-35,000 feet. After release, the rocket engine fired under full throttle for less than five minutes. After all fuel (an alcohol-water mixture) and liquid oxygen had been consumed, the pilot glided the airplane to earth for a landing. The X-1B made its last flight in January 1958, and it was transferred to the museum a year later.
Visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about these unique aircraft from museum volunteer Col. (Ret.) Frank Alfter, a former F-16 aircraft maintenance and munitions officer.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the world’s largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. Each year thousands of visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.
NOTE TO PUBLIC: For more information, contact the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at (937) 255-3286.