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Space History Photo: X-15 Mounted to B-52 Mothership Pylon in Flight

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This 1965 image illustrates the X-15 rocket powered aircraft taken aloft under the wing of a B-52. (Image credit: NASA.)

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, how the X-15 rocket powered aircraft was taken aloft under the wing of a B-52 is illustrated. Because of the large fuel consumption, the X-15 was air launched from a B-52 aircraft at 45,000 ft and a speed of about 500 mph.

This 1965 photo was taken from one of the observation windows in the B-52 shortly before dropping the X-15. The X-15 was flown over a period of nearly 10 years -- June 1959 to Oct. 1968 -- and set the world's unofficial speed and altitude records of 4,520 mph (Mach 6.7) and 354,200 ft in a program to investigate all aspects of manned hypersonic flight.

Information gained from the highly successful X-15 program contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo manned spaceflight programs, and also the Space Shuttle program. The X-15s made a total of 199 flights, and were manufactured by North American Aviation. X-15-1, serial number 56-6670, is now located at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington DC. North American X-15A-2, serial number 56-6671, is at the United States Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The X-15-3, serial number 56-6672, crashed on November 15, 1967, resulting in the death of Major Michael J. Adams.

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

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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. Founded in 1958, NASA is a civilian space agency aimed at exploring the universe with space telescopes,  satellites, robotic spacecraft, astronauts and more. The space agency has 10 major centers based across the U.S. and launches robotic and crewed missions from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida. It's astronaut corps is based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. To follow NASA's latest mission, follow the space agency on Twitter or any other social channel, of visit: nasa.gov