Experience the American Journey through our country’s visual heritage in this historical recording provided by the National Archives of the United States.
The North American X-15 was the last in a line of manned rocket-powered research airplanes built during the 1950s to explore ever-faster and higher flight regimes. Nineteen years before Space Shuttle, the small, black, rocket-powered, bullet-shaped X-15 showed it was possible to fly into – and out of – space. Launched from the wing of a modified B-52 bomber the ship rocketed higher and faster than any manned aircraft of the time. There had never been anything like the X-15; it had a million-horsepower engine and could fly twice as fast as a rifle bullet. The X-15 set records that stood for years.
In the joint X-15 hypersonic research program that NASA conducted with the Air Force, the Navy, and North American Aviation the aircraft flew over a period of nearly 10 years and set the world’s unofficial speed and altitude records in a program to investigate all aspects of piloted hypersonic flight. Information gained from the highly successful X-15 program contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo piloted spaceflight programs as well as the Space Shuttle program.
a million horsepower Air Force Apollo B-52 black bullet-shaped X-15 country Experience the American Journey Gemini hypersonic hypersonic flight Mercury NASA National Archives National Archives of the United States North American Aviation North American X-15 Project X-15 Research Project X-15 rocket-powered Space Shuttle Space Shuttle program the Navy the small United States