Note: This aircraft is located in the Research & Development Gallery on a controlled-access portion of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The gallery will close until further notice beginning May 1, 2013, as part of budget reduction requirements due to sequestration.
The X-15, designed to provide data on material and human factors of high-speed, high-altitude flight, made the first manned probes into the lower edges of space. It was built for speeds of up to 4,000 mph and altitudes of 50 miles, but these goals were exceeded on numerous occasions. Several X-15 pilots earned "astronaut" rating by attaining altitudes above 50 miles. The X-15 flight program contributed significantly to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects.
The X-15 was carried aloft by a B-52 and was released at about 45,000 feet and 500 mph. Its rocket engine then fired for the first 80-120 seconds of flight. The remainder of the 10-11 minute flight was powerless and ended with a 200 mph glide landing on a dry lake bed.
The first powered X-15 flight was made on Sept. 17. 1959, and 199 flights were made between 1959 and 1968 by the three X-15s that were built. The No. 1 X-15 is at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, and the No. 3 X-15 was destroyed in a crash. The No. 2 aircraft was retired to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in October 1969.
SPECIFICATIONS: Span: 22 ft. 5 in. Length: 52 ft. 5 in. Height: 14 ft. Weight: 56,132 lbs. (at launch with ram jet test engine) Armament: None Engine:Reaction Motors XLR 99 rocket engine of over 50,000 lbs. thrust Serial number: 56-6671 C/N: 240-2
Maximum speed: 4,520 mph (unofficial record) Range: Over 250 miles (flight path distance) Service ceiling: 354,200 ft. (unofficial record by X-15 No. 3)