This color film provides an overview of the X-15 from 1960 to 1980, predating Astronaut Joe Engle as Commander of the second orbital test flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia on November 12, 1981. The film opens with a view of the X-15 #3 plane dropping from a B-52 (:33). A photo of 6 of its 12 pilots is shown (:36), with an up-close shot of William Dana (:38), Milton Thompson (:41), William Knight (:43), John McKay (:46), Joe Engle (:48), and Robert Rushworth (:50). These test pilots flew the rocket-powered X-15 research airplane for nine years and 199 flights before the program ended (:53-1:04). An X-15 hangs in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (1:05-1:20). Pilot Joe Engle explains the wing design and structure of titanium, Inconel X, and stainless steel that could withstand temperatures of 1,200 degrees F (1:21-1:36). A pilot boards the X-15, already attached to a B-52 (1:37-1:44). The control tower is shown, as is a ground crew member, before the pair takes off (1:45-2:07). The high heat required an extra surface protectant to be applied (2:08-2:21). A view of the XLR-99 engine is shown in flight, which was fueled by anhydrous ammonia and liquid oxygen, as well as pressurized helium and hydrogen peroxide carried in the fuselage (2:22-2:56). The X-15 is released and travels at a speed of 4,000 mph (2:57-3:30), proving man could fly at hypersonic speeds. This paved the way for the space shuttle with many controls such as landing similar to the X-15 (3:36-4:22). A spinning view of the “worm” NASA logo, introduced in 1975, is shown (4:23).
The North American X-15 was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft. The X-15 set speed and altitude records in the 1960s, flying from Edwards AFB, reaching the edge of outer space and returning with valuable data used in aircraft and spacecraft design. The X-15's official world record for the highest speed ever recorded by a manned, powered aircraft, set in October 1967 when William J. Knight flew Mach 6.72 at 102,100 feet (31,120 m), a speed of 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 km/h; 2,021 m/s), has remained unchallenged as of January 2018.
During the X-15 program, 13 flights by eight pilots met the Air Force spaceflight criterion by exceeding the altitude of 50 miles (80 km), thus qualifying these pilots as being astronauts. The Air Force pilots qualified for astronaut wings immediately, while the civilian pilots were eventually awarded NASA astronaut wings in 2005, 35 years after the last X-15 flight. The only Navy pilot in the X-15 program never took the aircraft above the requisite 50 mile altitude and so as a result, never earned astronaut wings.
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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD, 2k and 4k. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com