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X-15 and XB-70 parked on NASA ramp



The X-15A-2 with drop tanks and ablative coating is shown parked on the NASA ramp in front of the XB-70. These aircraft represent two different approaches to flight research. The X-15 was a research airplane in the purest sense, whereas the XB-70 was an experimental bomber intended for production but diverted to research when production was cancelled by changes in the Department of Defense's offensive doctrine. The X-15A-2 had been modified from its original configuration with a longer fuselage and drop tanks. To protect it against aerodynamic heating, researchers had coated it with an ablative coating covered by a layer of white paint. These changes allowed the X-15A-2 to reach a maximum speed of Mach 6.7, although it could be sustained for only a brief period. The XB-70, by contrast, was designed for prolonged high-altitude cruise flight at Mach 3. The aircraft's striking shape--with a long forward fuselage, canards, a large delta wing, twin fins, and a box-like engine bay--allowed it to ride its own Mach 3 shockwave, so to speak. A joint NASA-Air Force program used the aircraft to collect data in support of the U.S supersonic transport (SST) program, which never came to fruition because of environmental concerns. X-15: The X-15 was a rocket-powered aircraft. The original three aircraft were about 50 ft long with a wingspan of 22 ft. The modified #2 aircraft (X-15A-2 was longer.) They were a missile-shaped vehicles with unusual wedge-shaped vertical tails, thin stubby wings, and unique side fairings that extended along the side of the fuselage. The X-15 weighed about 14,000 lb empty and approximately 34,000 lb at launch. The XLR-99 rocket engine, manufactured by Thiokol Chemical Corp., was pilot controlled and was rated at 57,000 lb of thrust, although there are indications that it actually achieved up to 60,000 lb. North American Aviation built three X-15 aircraft for the program. The X-15 research aircraft was developed to provide in-flight information and data on aerodynamics, structures, flight controls, and the physiological aspects of high-speed, high-altitude flight. A follow-on program used the aircraft as testbeds to carry various scientific experiments beyond the Earth's atmosphere on a repeated basis. For flight in the dense air of the usable atmosphere, the X-15 used conventional aerodynamic controls such as rudder surfaces on the vertical stabilizers to control yaw and movable horizontal stabilizers to control pitch when moving in synchronization or roll when moved differentially. For flight in the thin air outside of the appreciable Earth's atmosphere, the X-15 used a reaction control system. Hydrogen peroxide thrust rockets located on the nose of the aircraft provided pitch and yaw control. Those on the wings provided roll control. Because of the large fuel consumption, the X-15 was air launched from a B-52 aircraft at approximately 45,000 ft and a speed of about 500 mph. Depending on the mission, the rocket engine provided thrust for the first 80 to 120 sec of flight. The remainder of the normal 10 to 11 min. flight was powerless and ended with a 200-mph glide landing. Generally, one of two types of X-15 flight profiles was used; a high-altitude flight plan that called for the pilot to maintain a steep rate of climb, or a speed profile that called for the pilot to push over and maintain a level altitude. The X-15 was flown over a period of nearly 10 years -- June 1959 to Oct. 1968 -- and set the world's unofficial speed and altitude records of 4,520 mph (Mach 6.7) and 354,200 ft in a program to investigate all aspects of manned hypersonic flight. Information gained from the highly successful X-15 program contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo manned spaceflight programs, and also the Space Shuttle program. The X-15s made a total of 199 flights, and were manufactured by North American Aviation. X-15-1, serial number 56-6670, is now located at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC. North American X-15A-2, serial number 56-6671, is at the United States Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. X-15-3, serial number 56-6672, crashed on 15 November 1967, resulting in the death of Maj. Michael J. Adams. XB-70: The XB-70 was the world's largest experimental aircraft. It was capable of flight at speeds of three times the speed of sound (roughly 2,000 miles per hour) at altitudes of 70,000 feet. It was used to collect in-flight information for use in the design of future supersonic aircraft, military and civilian. The major objectives of the XB-70 flight research program were to study the airplane's stability and handling characteristics, to evaluate its response to atmospheric turbulence, and to determine the aerodynamic and propulsion performance. In addition there were secondary objectives to measure the noise and friction associated with airflow over the airplane and to determine the levels and extent of the engine noise during takeoff, landing, and ground operations. The XB-70 was about 186 feet long, 33 feet high, with a wingspan of 105 feet. Originally conceived as an advanced bomber for the United States Air Force, the XB-70 was limited to production of two aircraft when it was decided to limit the aircraft's mission to flight research. The first flight of the XB-70 was made on Sept. 21, 1964. The number two XB-70 was destroyed in a mid-air collision on June 8, 1966. Program management of the NASA-USAF research effort was assigned to NASA in March 1967. The final flight was flown on Feb. 4, 1969. Designed by North American Aviation (later North American Rockwell and still later, a division of Boeing) the XB-70 had a long fuselage with a canard or horizontal stabilizer mounted just behind the crew compartment. It had a sharply swept 65.6-percent delta wing. The outer portion of the wing could be folded down in flight to provide greater lateral-directional stability. The airplane had two windshields. A moveable outer windshield was raised for high-speed flight to reduce drag and lowered for greater visibility during takeoff and landing. The forward fuselage was constructed of riveted titanium frames and skin. The remainder of the airplane was constructed almost entirely of stainless steel. The skin was a brazed stainless-steel honeycomb material. Six General Electric YJ93-3 turbojet engines, each in the 30,000-pound-thrust class, powered the XB-70. Internal geometry of the inlets was controllable to maintain the most efficient airflow to the engines.

NASA Identifier: NIX-E-17242



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nasa nasaimageexchangecollection x 15 and xb 70 parked on nasa ramp dvids crew compartment experimental aircraft public domain aircraft photos boeing aircrafts