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Starlight and the X-15

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  • At ease
    replied
    Originally posted by peter_sym View Post
    'Space' then was only about 60,000 feet. A U2 does more than that. Hell, a guy in a balloon did it! Reaching 60,000 in an X-15 seems highly probable.
    Once again, I will point out that the boundary of "space" was recognised as being 50 miles by the USAF. "By the end of 1963, this X-15 had flown above 50 miles, the altitude that the Air Force recognized as the minimum boundary of spaceflight. FRC pilot Joe Walker set an X-15 record for winged spaceflight by reaching 354,200 feet, a record that stood until the orbital flight of Columbia nearly two decades later. These flights, and others later, acquired reentry data considered applicable to the design of future ”lifting reentry” spacecraft." http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/Hi...-x15/ch-6.html
    Again credit to "Chukka" for the source.

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  • peter_sym
    replied
    Why fit external tanks that are only part filled? It doesn't make any sense at all and given that NASA are rarely very stupid it seems unlikely.

    I suspect tanks were only part filled for some initial test flights but after that it would be madness.

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  • At ease
    replied
    Originally posted by ldkinfo View Post
    For many test flights, fuel tanks on the X-15 were only partially filled. This was don deliberately, not for safety reasons but to prevent an erstwhile test pilot taking it into orbit and upstaging the Mercury program.
    But how far might aviation have advanced and what direction might the space program have taken had the X-15 not been deliberately " shorted-changed".
    I had my doubts that this "suggestion" was valid. See "When Project Mercury took to the air, it rapidly eclipsed the X-15 in glamour, but the two programs really were complementary in nature, though Mercury dominated some of the research areas that had first interested X-15 planners, such as ”zero g” weightlessness studies. The use of reaction controls to maintain a vehicle's attitude in space proved academic after Mercury flew, but the X-15 had already proved them and would also furnish valuable design information on the use of blending reaction controls with conventional aerodynamic controls during an exit and reentry, a matter of concern to subsequent Shuttle development. The X-15 experience clearly demonstrated the ability of pilots to fly rocket-propelled aircraft out of the atmosphere and back in to precision landings. Flight Research Center director Paul Bikle saw the X-15 and Mercury as a: 6

    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 … considerable new knowledge was obtained on the techniques and problems associated with lifting reentry." http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/Hi...-x15/ch-6.html
    Credit to "Chukka" for the above material.

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  • Chukka
    replied
    Also I would agree with Galland that Heat was a bigger problem than fuel, check out
    http://www.ipmsstockholm.org/magazin...ff_eng_x15.htm



    Note the white ablative material, which is covering the pilots port side window. The ablative would melt and run over the planes body and windows during re-entry. The starboard window was covered by a panel which would be ejected after the re-entry, which meant that the pilot had only 1 window to see out of for landing. Had silica tiles been around in the 60's, then we might have seen an early NASA spaceplane, however, the death of Michael Adams in a supersonic spin and breakup sadly showed that manually flying a re-entry was incredibly dangerous. Neil Armstrong had an embarrasing close call when flying a re-entry. He was flying a re-entry and literally bounced off the atmosphere and shot back to high altitude on a ballistic path. He flew as far south as Passadena and only just made it to Edwards. In his biography 'First Man' he recounts that he momentarily considered landing at Palmdale municipal airport before realising that he would make it back.


    Note the External Fuel tanks, which increased fuel capacity from 15,000lb to 35,000lb (see below). Even with the extra tanks, sustained spaceflight was not a option. the plane simply didn't have the legs for anything more than a few minutes of suborbital flight. Orbital flight was never, ever an option.


    Here are the Plane/fuel weights from http://jsbsim.sourceforge.net/X-15.html,
    15,560 lb. Empty
    31,240 lb. Fueled
    50,914 lb. Fueled (w/ext. fuel tanks)


    Lastly the H2O2 attitude control jets only had enough fuel for 80 to 120 seconds, not enough for a full spaceflight.
    http://www.acepilots.com/planes/x15.html
    Last edited by Chukka; 07 Jul 09, 05:45.

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  • Chukka
    replied
    Originally posted by At ease View Post
    The definition of "space" is above 50 miles(264,000ft).

    " PRESS RELEASE
    Date Released: Tuesday, August 23, 2005
    Source: Dryden Flight Research Center

    image

    NASA awarded astronaut wings today to three 1960's-era test pilots. The pilots were never recognized for going beyond the atmosphere and into space flying the X-15 experimental aircraft.

    Retired NASA pilot Bill Dana, and family members representing agency deceased pilots John McKay and Joseph Walker, received the civilian astronaut wings. The wings acknowledged the fact the pilots flew the X-15 at altitudes of 50 miles or higher."
    See http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=17660
    They were awarded wings at the time. According to Tom Wolfe in 'The Right Stuff' some air force buddies of the NASA pilots took them out for drinks and a big meal and gave them some cardboard wings with "Ass-tronaut" written on them.
    Last edited by Chukka; 07 Jul 09, 05:59.

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  • peter_sym
    replied
    Originally posted by At ease View Post
    No, the USAF defined "space" as 50 miles up.
    "Highest flights
    " Strategically, the U.S. has never defined an altitude for space so as not to set a limit where its (restricted) airspace ends. (To that end Eisenhower was briefed by Asst. Secretary of Defense Donald Quarles that the Russians had done the United States a "good turn" by launching Sputnik, thus "establishing the concept of freedom of space." [Source: "Sputnik: The Shock Of The Century" by Dickson]). "

    As I said earlier there is no scientific point at which space begins. If you define it as the point at which humans can no longer survive its about 30,000 feet. If you define it as the point at which aircraft can no longer generate lift from their wings its about 75,000. If you define it as the point at which there is no trace of the earths atmosphere detectable its about 300 miles up.

    The US gave badges for anyone going over 50 miles but its an arbitary height. For winning the Ansari X prize you needed two flights over 100 kms which works out about 63 miles up.

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  • At ease
    replied
    Originally posted by ldkinfo View Post
    For many test flights, fuel tanks on the X-15 were only partially filled. This was don deliberately, not for safety reasons but to prevent an erstwhile test pilot taking it into orbit and upstaging the Mercury program.
    Could you please provide some evidence?

    Leave a comment:


  • At ease
    replied
    Originally posted by peter_sym View Post
    It is now. 'Space' was far lower in the 50's. At one point 15 miles up was considered the boundary ........... The US has never legally declared a point at which US airspace becomes outer space (at least from an air defence point of view).
    No, the USAF defined "space" as 50 miles up.
    "Highest flights

    In the United States there are two definitions of how high a person must go to be referred to as an astronaut. The USAF decided to award astronaut wings to anyone who achieved an altitude of 50 miles (80.47 km) or more. However the FAI set the limit of space at 100 km. Thirteen X-15 flights went higher than 50 miles (80.47 km) and two of these reached over 62.137 miles (100 km).
    X-15 flights higher than 50 miles (80 km) Flight Date Top speed Altitude Pilot
    Flight 62 17 July 1962 3,831 mph (6,165 km/h) 59.6 miles (95.9 km) Robert M. White
    Flight 77 17 January 1963 3,677 mph (5,918 km/h) 51.4 miles (82.7 km) Joe Walker
    Flight 87 27 June 1963 3,425 mph (5,512 km/h) 53.9 miles (86.7 km) Robert Rushworth
    Flight 90 19 July 1963 3,710 mph (5,970 km/h) 65.8 miles (105.9 km) Joe Walker
    Flight 91 22 August 1963 3,794 mph (6,106 km/h) 67.0 miles (107.8 km) Joe Walker
    Flight 138 29 June 1965 3,431 mph (5,522 km/h) 53.1 miles (85.5 km) Joseph H. Engle
    Flight 143 10 August 1965 3,549 mph (5,712 km/h) 51.3 miles (82.6 km) Joseph H. Engle
    Flight 150 28 September 1965 3,731 mph (6,004 km/h) 55.9 miles (90.0 km) John B. McKay
    Flight 153 14 October 1965 3,554 mph (5,720 km/h) 50.4 miles (81.1 km) Joseph H. Engle
    Flight 174 1 November 1966 3,750 mph (6,040 km/h) 58.1 miles (93.5 km) Bill Dana
    Flight 190 17 October 1967 3,856 mph (6,206 km/h) 53.1 miles (85.5 km) Pete Knight
    Flight 191 15 November 1967 3,569 mph (5,744 km/h) 50.3 miles (81.0 km) Michael J. Adams†
    Flight 197 21 August 1968 3,443 mph (5,541 km/h) 50.6 miles (81.4 km) Bill Dana

    † fatal"
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-15
    Last edited by At ease; 03 Jul 09, 09:31.

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  • peter_sym
    replied
    It is now. 'Space' was far lower in the 50's. At one point 15 miles up was considered the boundary (because there was so little air no winged plane could get lift at that height) At 70,000 feet you only have about 1% of the atmosphere you have at sea level which is why U2 pilots wear spacesuits. Their blood would boil if the plane depressurised or they had to eject. At that height the sky is black and the earth looks curved.

    If you've never heard of Joe Kittinger this is worth a read:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Excelsior

    Some guy!

    The BBC reckon the X15 made it into space though:
    "Preliminary radar data showed SpaceShipOne reached a peak altitude of 112km (368,000ft or 69.6 miles), which is higher than the mark (107.9km/354,200ft) set by the experimental X-15 craft more than four decades ago. "

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3712998.stm

    Edited to add: this is all the info anyone needs about where space starts:
    http://www.collectspace.com/ubb/Forum3/HTML/001970.html

    Highlights are that generally 100km is the legally established boundary but in reality humans need life support beyond 30,000 feet and the international space station at 279 miles up can still detect some traces of atmosphere so there's no physical boundary. The US has never legally declared a point at which US airspace becomes outer space (at least from an air defence point of view).
    Last edited by peter_sym; 03 Jul 09, 08:07.

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  • At ease
    replied
    Spaced Out

    Originally posted by peter_sym View Post
    'Space' then was only about 60,000 feet. A U2 does more than that. Hell, a guy in a balloon did it! Reaching 60,000 in an X-15 seems highly probable.
    The definition of "space" is above 50 miles(264,000ft).

    " PRESS RELEASE
    Date Released: Tuesday, August 23, 2005
    Source: Dryden Flight Research Center

    image

    NASA awarded astronaut wings today to three 1960's-era test pilots. The pilots were never recognized for going beyond the atmosphere and into space flying the X-15 experimental aircraft.

    Retired NASA pilot Bill Dana, and family members representing agency deceased pilots John McKay and Joseph Walker, received the civilian astronaut wings. The wings acknowledged the fact the pilots flew the X-15 at altitudes of 50 miles or higher."
    See http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=17660
    Last edited by At ease; 03 Jul 09, 07:21.

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  • peter_sym
    replied
    At Mach 6.7 you can't really manouver at all beyond subtle course corrections so that sounds right. A Mig 25 is meant to take 50 miles to turn at Mach 3!

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  • Carl Schwamberg
    replied
    I've been told byfolk with a bit more knowledge than I the X15 was not equipped to manuver at extreme altitudes. It depended o airflow across the control surfaces, so its flight above 60,000 feet was ballisitc rather than controled. Perhaps there is some expert here than can confirm this.

    However, while revisitng the Pima Air Museum last winter I noticed the display of experimental aircraft included nearly twenty examples of extreme high altitude aircraft other than the X15. Although the exibits were shy on data it was clear from the photographs that some of these were designed for manuver outside the atmosphere and for high temperature reentry. Exactly what these X aircraft did I cant say say, but they certainly look like precursors to NASA Space Shuttle.

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  • peter_sym
    replied
    Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
    How do you know the X15 did not reach 'space'? Perhaps you are assuming you know all the accomplishments of the X15 & related programs?
    'Space' then was only about 60,000 feet. A U2 does more than that. Hell, a guy in a balloon did it! Reaching 60,000 in an X-15 seems highly probable.

    Leave a comment:


  • Achtung Baby
    replied
    I thought it had a large fuel consumption, plus watch the video.... this was apparently after the Mach 6.7 flight, alot of heat damage!

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  • At ease
    replied
    Originally posted by ldkinfo View Post
    For many test flights, fuel tanks on the X-15 were only partially filled. This was don deliberately, not for safety reasons but to prevent an erstwhile test pilot taking it into orbit and upstaging the Mercury program.
    But how far might aviation have advanced and what direction might the space program have taken had the X-15 not been deliberately " shorted-changed".
    Could you provide a link?

    Thanks,
    John.

    Leave a comment:

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