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X-1E Loaded in B-29 Mothership on Ramp

X-1E Loaded in B-29 Mothership on Ramp

 
 
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Description (1955) The Bell Aircraft Corporation X-1E airplane being loaded under the mothership, Boeing B-29. The X planes had originally been lowered into a loading pit and the launch aircraft towed over the pit, where the rocket plane was hoisted by belly straps into the bomb bay. By the early 1950's a hydraulic lift had been installed on the ramp at the NACA High-Speed Flight Station to elevate the launch aircraft and then lower it over the rocket plane for mating. ..There were four versions of the Bell X-1 rocket-powered research aircraft that flew at the NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station, Edwards, California. The bullet-shaped X-1 aircraft were built by Bell Aircraft Corporation, Buffalo, N.Y. for the U.S. Army Air Forces (after 1947, U.S. Air Force) and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The X-1 Program was originally designated the XS-1 for EXperimental Supersonic. The X-1's mission was to investigate the transonic speed range (speeds from just below to just above the speed of sound) and, if possible, to break the "sound barrier." Three different X-1s were built and designated: X-1-1, X-1-2 (later modified to become the X-1E), and X-1-3. The basic X-1 aircraft were flown by a large number of different pilots from 1946 to 1951. The X-1 Program not only proved that humans could go beyond the speed of sound, it reinforced the understanding that technological barriers could be overcome. The X-1s pioneered many structural and aerodynamic advances including extremely thin, yet extremely strong wing sections; supersonic fuselage configurations; control system requirements; powerplant compatibility; and cockpit environments. ..The X-1 aircraft were the first transonic-capable aircraft to use an all-moving stabilizer. The flights of the X-1s opened up a new era in aviation. The first X-1 was air-launched unpowered from a Boeing B-29 Superfortress on January 25, 1946. Powered flights began in December 1946. On October 14, 1947, the X-1-1, piloted by Air Force Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager, became the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound, reaching about 700 miles per hour (Mach 1.06) and an altitude of 43,000 feet. The number 2 X-1 was modified and redesignated the X-1E. The modifications included adding a conventional canopy, an ejection seat, a low-pressure fuel system of increased capacity, and a thinner high-speed wing. The X-1E was used to obtain in-flight data at twice the speed of sound, with particular emphasis placed on investigating the improvements achieved with the high-speed wing. These wings, made by Stanley Aircraft, were only 3-3/8-inches thick at the root and had 343 gauges installed in them to measure structural loads and aerodynamic heating. The X-1E used its rocket engine to power it up to a speed of 1,471 miles per hour (Mach 2.24) and to an altitude of 73,000 feet. Like the X-1 it was air-launched. The X-1 aircraft were almost 31 feet long and had a wingspan of 28 feet. The X-1 was built of conventional aluminum.stressed-skin construction to extremely high structural standards. The X-1E was also 31 feet long but had a wingspan of only 22 feet, 10 inches. It was powered by a Reaction Motors, Inc., XLR-8-RM-5, four-chamber rocket engine. As did all X-1 rocket engines, the LR-8-RM-5 engine did not have throttle capability, but instead, depended on ignition of any one chamber or group of chambers to vary speed.

An atomic bomb and nuclear facilities images from the late 1940s and later.

The X-planes are a series of experimental United States aircraft and rockets, used to test and evaluate new technologies and aerodynamic concepts. They have an X designator, which indicates the research mission within the US system of aircraft designations. The first, the Bell X-1, became well known in 1947 after it became the first aircraft to break the sound barrier in level flight. Most of the X-planes have been operated by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) or, later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), often in conjunction with the United States Air Force. The majority of X-plane testing has occurred at Edwards Air Force Base. Some of the X-planes have been well publicized, while others have been developed in secrecy. Most X-planes are not expected to go into full-scale production.

NASA Photo Collection

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1955
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