X-1E Loaded in B-29 Mothership on Ramp
The Bell Aircraft Corporation X-1E loaded into the Boeing B-29 in NACA High Speed Flight Station service area. The B-29 would carry the X-1E to an altitude of approximately 25,000 feet. If all systems were `go' the aircraft would be launched. The pilot would activate the rocket engines and follow a pre-determined flight plan for altitude and speed, doing other maneuvers as requested, returning on a glide path to the Rogers Dry Lakebed for a touch down. There were four versions of the Bell X-1 rocket-powered research aircraft that flew at the NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station, Edwards, California. The bullet-shaped X-1 aircraft were built by Bell Aircraft Corporation, Buffalo, N.Y. for the U.S. Army Air Forces (after 1947, U.S. Air Force) and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The X-1 Program was originally designated the XS-1 for EXperimental Supersonic. The X-1's mission was to investigate the transonic speed range (speeds from just below to just above the speed of sound) and, if possible, to break the "sound barrier." Three different X-1s were built and designated: X-1-1, X-1-2 (later modified to become the X-1E), and X-1-3. The basic X-1 aircraft were flown by a large number of different pilots from 1946 to 1951. The X-1 Program not only proved that humans could go beyond the speed of sound, it reinforced the understanding that technological barriers could be overcome. The X-1s pioneered many structural and aerodynamic advances including extremely thin, yet extremely strong wing sections; supersonic fuselage configurations; control system requirements; powerplant compatibility; and cockpit environments. The X-1 aircraft were the first transonic-capable aircraft to use an all-moving stabilizer. The flights of the X-1s opened up a new era in aviation. The first X-1 was air-launched unpowered from a Boeing B-29 Superfortress on January 25, 1946. Powered flights began in December 1946. On October 14, 1947, the X-1-1, piloted by Air Force Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager, became the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound, reaching about 700 miles per hour (Mach 1.06) and an altitude of 43,000 feet. The number 2 X-1 was modified and redesignated the X-1E. The modifications included adding a conventional canopy, an ejection seat, a low-pressure fuel system of increased capacity, and a thinner high-speed wing. The X-1E was used to obtain in-flight data at twice the speed of sound, with particular emphasis placed on investigating the improvements achieved with the high-speed wing. These wings, made by Stanley Aircraft, were only 3 -3/8-inches thick at the root and had 343 gauges installed in them to measure structural loads and aerodynamic heating. The X-1E used its rocket engine to power it up to a speed of 1,471 miles per hour (Mach 2.24) and to an altitude of 73,000 feet. Like the X-1 it was air-launched. The X-1 aircraft were almost 31 feet long and had a wingspan of 28 feet. The X-1 was built of conventional aluminum stressed-skin construction to extremely high structural standards. The X-1E was also 31 feet long but had a wingspan of only 22 feet, 10 inches. It was powered by a Reaction Motors, Inc., XLR-8-RM-5, four-chamber rocket engine. As did all X-1 rocket engines, the LR-8-RM-5 engine did not have throttle capability, but instead, depended on ignition of any one chamber or group of chambers to vary speed.
NASA Identifier: NIX-E-2071
The Boeing B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine heavy bomber designed by Boeing during the Second World War. It was used primarily by the United States Army Air Forces in the Pacific theatre of World War II and also during the Korean War. The B-29 was one of the largest aircraft of its time, with a wingspan of 141 feet and a length of 99 feet. It had a top speed of 357 mph and a range of over 3,000 miles. The B-29 was also the first bomber to have a pressurised cabin, allowing it to fly at high altitudes without the need for oxygen masks. One of the most famous B-29s was the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on 6 August 1945.