National Air & Space Museum Site Index
X-15 Gallery


The sign by the X-15. It reads

World's Fastest and Highest Flying Aircraft

The North American X-15, a rocket-powered research aircraft, bridged the gap between manned flights in the atmosphere and space flight. After its initial test flights in 1959, the X-15 became the first winged aircraft to attain hypersonic velocities of Mach 4, 5, and 6 (four to six times the speed of sound) and to operate at altitudes well above 30,500 meters (100,000 feet).

The X-15 was designed to explore the problems of flight at very high speeds ant altitudes. It was carried to an altitude of 12,000 meters (40,000 feet) under the wing of a Boeing B-52 bomber. During one test, it attained an altitude of over 108 kilometers (67 miles), flying so high that it functioned more as a spacecraft than an airplane. In 1967 it reached Mach 6.72 (7,297 kilometers or 4,534 miles per hour).

Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Wingspan: 6.7 m (22 ft)
Length: 15.5 m (51 ft)
Height: 3.9 m (13 ft)
Weight, gross: 17,237 kg (38,000 lb)
Engine: Thiokol (Reaction Motors) XLR-99-RM-2 rocket engine
Manufacturer: North American Aviation

The X-15 is NASM catalog #A19690360000.

The sign by the X-15 at the National Air & Space Museum.
Time picture taken Tue Jun 19 10:38:50 2007
Location picture taken Second Floor Balcony
Overlooking Milestones of Flight Gallery
National Air & Space Museum
Washington, DC
Picture also in Milestones of Flight
Prev X-15 Gallery Next