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From 1947 to 1968, a series of four rocket-powered research aircraft provided American aircraft designers with the information and test data to build everything from early jet fighters like the North American F-86 Sabre, to the incredible speed, altitude, and stealth of the Lockheed A-12/ SR-71 Blackbirds. These aircraft, the X-1, X-1A, X-2, and X-15, literally took American aircraft design through the sound barrier, to hypersonic regimes above Mach 5. In addition, these aircraft demonstrated new materials, aerodynamics, systems, and even rocket engines that could be throttled. And in the case of the X-15, actually took pilots above the atmosphere and into space. Of of these amazing aircraft, it was the X-15 which was arguably the most productive and successful of the X-planes, flying 199 times and setting records which would only be broken by the arrival of the Space Shuttles in the 1980s. Flown by some of the most talented pilots of their generation, some, including Neil Armstrong, would go on to fly for NASA on Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle missions. Today, the two surviving X-15s are prized museum exhibits, which still draw the attention of patrons from around the globe.
To learn more about the X-15 rocket plane, join military historian, author and journalist John D. Gresham (@greshamj01) for Military Monday at 1 p.m. Eastern. His guest this week is pilot, engineer, and aircraft designer Robert Passman, who spent much of his career working with rocket powered aircraft and spacecraft for the NACA, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and CIA. Along with John Anderson, he is the co-author of the new book X-15 from Zenith Press (@Zenith_Press). Together they will go through the history of the X-15, including its heritage, design, pilots, missions and legacy. Listeners are encouraged to call in and offer their own questions and opinions on this landmark aircraft, in an hour that will highlight perhaps the greatest research aircraft of all time.
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