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X-15 Crash Landing (1962)

The X—15 program and Project Mercury have represented a parallel, two-pronged approach to solving some of the problems of manned space flight. While Mercury was demonstrating man's capability to function effectively in space, the X—15 was demonstrating man's ability to control a high-performance vehicle in a near-space environment. At the same time, considerable new knowledge was obtained on the techniques and problems associated with lifting reentry.

Already the lessons learned are being applied to our new manned space programs. The pilot is playing a much greater role in these programs.

Reviewed by Randy Bumgardner

Certainly the problem of launching the lunar-excursion module from the surface of the Moon through the sole efforts of its two-man crew must appear more practical and feasible in the light of the repeated launchings of the X—15 through the efforts of its pilot and the launch operator on the carrier B—52 than would be the case if it were compared only with the elaborate launch procedures and large numbers of people, buried safely in blockhouses, that typify all other launch operations to date. Thiokol Chemical Corp.


The controls consisted of the rudder on the vertical stabilizers to control yaw. The canted horizontal stabilizers controlled both pitch when operated in unison and roll when moved differentially by lateral movements of the control stick.

In , Scott Crossfield left the NACA to become the chief engineering test pilot for North American, where he played a major role in the design and development of the X The X was an entirely new and unproven design, and flight operations were considered extremely hazardous. Among these pilots were two future astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Joe Engle.

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Pilots generally flew one of two flight profiles: 1 a speed profile that called for the pilot to maintain a level altitude until time for descent to a landing, or 2 a high-altitude flight plan that required maintaining a steep rate of climb until reaching altitude and then descending—these flights were eventually recognized as flights into space and that the pilots as astronauts. Information gathered during the program contributed directly to science and technologies used on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo piloted spaceflight programs as well as the Space Shuttle program.

Scott Crossfield, made the first unpowered flight June 8, and the first powered flight. The three Xs flew a total of powered flights.

Douglas Model 671/684: The X-15’s Shadow

A th flight was scheduled, but due to weather and technical difficulties, it was delayed and eventually cancel, ending the program. Although the X had its share of emergency landings and accidents, only two resulted in serious injuries or death. On Nov. The landing gear collapsed and the aircraft flipped onto its back.

X — Aerospace Legacy Foundation

McKay recovered sufficiently to fly again. On one occasion an X flown by NASA pilot Neil Armstrong who later became famous for making the first landing on the moon skipped off the atmosphere instead of re-entering, and Armstrong found himself on a ballistic trajectory heading towards the Los Angeles area.

After the X dropped into the atmosphere, Armstrong was able to turn back towards Edwards, but barely succeeded in making a safe landing on the dry lake bed. Although designed to reach similar altitudes, SpaceShip 2 will not travel nearly as fast. In October, an X flew at 4, mph Mach 6.

This record is unlikely to be broken any time soon.