Photos: X-15 Rocket Plane Reaches Space in Test Flights

Neil Armstrong With X-15 Rocketplane


Research pilot Neil Armstrong stands with an X-15 rocketplane at NASA's Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., in 1960.

X-15 Rocket Plane in Flight

NASA/U.S. Air Force

The X-15 rocket plane flew 199 times between 1959 and 1968.

Former NASA X-15 Pilots Awarded Astronaut Wings


The X-15 rocket-powered aircraft begins its climb after launch at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, California. Image

X-15 Launches from Mothership

NASA/U.S. Air Force

The X-15 #2 launches away from the B-52 mothership with its rocket engine ignited. The white patches near the middle of the ship are frost from the liquid oxygen used in the propulsion system, although very cold liquid nitrogen was also used to cool the payload bay, cockpit, windshields, and nose.

X-15A-2 Soars in Research Flight

NASA/U.S. Air Force

This photo shows the X-15A-2 (56-6671) on a research flight with a dummy ramjet engine attached to the bottom of its wedge-shaped vertical tail.

X-15 Nears Touchdown with Starfighter

NASA/U.S. Air Force

Followed by a Lockheed F-104A Starfighter chase plane, the North American X-15 ship #3 (56-6672) sinks toward touchdown on Rogers Dry Lake following a research flight.

X-15 Gets Protective Coating

NASA/U.S. Air Force

After receiving a full scale ablative coating to protect the craft from the high temperatures associated with high-Mach-number supersonic flight, the X-15A-2 (56-6671) rocket powered research aircraft was then covered with a white sealant coat and mounted with additional external fuel tanks.

NASA’s Bill Dana Next to X-15

NASA/U.S. Air Force

NASA research pilot Bill Dana is seen here next to the X-15 #3 rocket-powered aircraft after a flight.

X-15A-2 Soars

NASA/U.S. Air Force

X-15A-2 in flight. This was its first flight with dummy ramjet attached.

Clowning Around

NASA/U.S. Air Force

The X-15 pilots clown around in front of the #2 aircraft. From left to right: USAF Capt. Joseph Engle, USAF Maj. Robert Rushworth, NASA test pilot John "Jack" McKay, USAF Maj. William "Pete" Knight, NASA test pilot Milton Thompson, and NASA test pilot William Dana.

X-15 Under the Wing of a B-52

NASA/U.S. Air Force

This photo was taken from one of the observation windows in the B-52 shortly before dropping the X-15.

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