Skip to main content

Space History Photo: Iron Cross Attitude Simulator With Pilot

space history, NACA, Bell X-1B
Pilot Stan Butchart demonstrates the Iron Cross Attitude Simulator. (Image credit: NACA.)

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, NACA High-Speed Flight Station test pilot Stan Butchart flies the Iron Cross, the mechanical reaction control simulator, in January 1956.

High-pressure nitrogen gas expended selectively by the pilot through the small reaction control thrusters maneuvered the Iron Cross through the three axes. The exhaust plume can be seen from the aft thruster. The tanks containing the gas can be seen on the cart at the base of the pivot point of the Iron Cross.

NACA technicians built the iron-frame simulator, which matched the inertia ratios of the Bell X-1B airplane, installing six jet nozzles to control the movement about the three axes of pitch, roll, and yaw.

The National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) was a precursor to NASA. NACA was created by Congress in 1915.

Each weekday, looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the U.S. government agency in charge of the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.