1 min 20 sec - 2 min
52 ft. 5 in.
22 ft. 4 in.
June 8, 1959
Oct. 24, 1968
North American X-15
Click on the photo to hear the wav sound.
The North American X-15 first took to the sky on June 8, 1959. The last flight took place on Oct. 24, 1968. A 200th flight was never made, even after several attempts. They were all canceled due to either technical problems or the weather.
Of the 199 flights a total of thirteen exceeded an altitude of 50 miles. The U.S. designates a pilot who has exceeded that altitude as an astronaut.
On Aug. 22, 1963 Joseph A. Walker piloted a North American X-15 to an altitude of 354,199 feet. The record stood until Oct. 4, 2004.
It still holds the world speed record of 4,519 mph set by William Knight on Oct. 3, 1967.
The North American X-15 was flown by Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. He was among the twelve pilots who flew the aircraft.
The two surviving North American X-15 aircraft are on exhibit. One is at the National Air &Space Museum in Washington, DC and the other is at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH.
The primary differences between aircraft models are a heat resistant treated fuselage, two fuel tanks beneath the fuselage, and a lengthening of a little over two feet.
Mission preparation could take up to 200 hours. This included a number of various simulations, ground checks and in flight systems checks.
North American X-15 aircraft were launched from under the wing of a B-52 mother ship. Pilots describe the launch as being "fired from a cannon."
After rocket ignition it took approximately a minute and a half for the North American X-15 to achieve maximum altitude. All the time, the pilot,
pressed back in his seat at 2 to 4 G's, concentrated on achieving the correct angle of ascent and speed, monitoring climb rate and altitude.
X-15 pilots were kept busy. Controls for on board experiments needed to be actuated while the pilot also worked on regulating engine thrust and final shutdown of the rocket engine. During flight in the upper
atmosphere, where the air is so thin that the conventional flight controls do not work, the pilot guided the aircraft using attitude control rockets.
Upon reentry a pilot experienced forces of up to 5 G's. On final approach the X-15 handled somewhat like a conventional airplane. Pilots reported no difficulties in final approach or landing of the aircraft.
Pictured above is Doug Gard and his X-Projects X-15 rocket. It is of all composite construction. Power is from an Aerotech 1200W-RMS motor.
The X-15 rocket on eBay has a wingspan of 9" and a length of 29". Propelling it is a Pyrotechnic motor.
The X-15 rocket built by Frank Burke wingspan is 19" and length is 27". Frank uses a Park 180 motor turning a 6 x 5.5 propeller to push it.
We received the following email from Frank: "Hi, I've built and flown a profile pusher electric North American X-15, runs on a full flying tail only, very docile and good flight performance,
I just converted to take a rocket, motor so you can launch vertically under rocket, or fly it on electric, this was featured in a recent issue of model
aviation, I’ve done several X planes, all profiles. The North American X-15 was one of my first and is very simple to build out of depron, and flies very very well. In case you are interested, ran across your
web site today and saw the couple of other attempts. My North American X-15 belly lands no problem and will fly in very small areas. I'll attach a photo, and the thread with a couple of
links to videos is in the thread if interested. Plans are posted with a link also in the thread; they are free for download.
Frank sent us the picture below of a larger X-15 rocket he recently scratch built. It has a 33" wingspan, 72" length, is powered by G-40 motors and weighs around 38 oz. You
can find the launch video here:
Estes has a 14 inch long X-15 rocket that is for free flight.