Sunday, February 6, 2011
yeah, its pretty fast
The rocket powered X-15, first flown in 1959 still holds the world record for fastest speed of a manned rocket powered aircraft. On its fastest flights it flew over 7,000 km/h, reaching over 100km's in altitude. It was launched from under a B-25 at 800 km/h at 45,000 feet. This thing just looks mean at 50ft long and 22 feet wide. And it wasn't just strapping a rocket on the back of this bad boy, it actually had throttle control so you could somewhat affect your acceleration.
The first model had two rocket engines in the rear but it later moved two a one motor set up. Upon landing it would jettison the bottom half of its lower rear stabilizer to allow the read landing gear to touch the ground. In 1967 one of these things came down hard too. Michael J. Adams was descending from 81km above the earth when he went into a hypersonic spin, yeah that's bad at that kinda height and speed. The aircraft ripped itself apart under the intense forces. You cant eject at that kind of speed.
It was finally retired in 1969, as NASA decided on other systems for manned space flight, but today it is still one of my favorite space planes. Hats off to the brave men who took a ride on one of these.