“FASTER FASTER until the thrill of speed overcome the fear of death”
Humans have had a need for speed, adventure and discovery for centuries and it has helped mankind go places that were once unfathomable. The North American X-15 hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force and NASA, set speed and altitude records during its 9-year program in the late 50s and 60s. Thirteen X-15 flights went higher than 80.4 km (50 miles), two of which exceeded 100 km (62.1 miles).
The highest recorded flight, Flight 91, piloted by Joseph A. Walker on 22 August 1963, reached a top speed of 6,106 km/h (3,794 mph) and an altitude of 107.8 km (67 miles). The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates stands 829.8 meters (2,722.4 ft) tall. This means Joseph A. Walker’s X-15 flight was as high as almost 130 Burj Khalifas stacked on top of each other.
The X-15’s official world record for the highest speed ever recorded by a manned, powered aircraft, set in October 1967 when William J. “Pete” Knight flew at 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 km/h), or Mach 6.72, and has remained unchallenged as of 2016.
The X-15 was based on a concept study from Walter Dornberger for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) for a hypersonic research aircraft. The requests for proposal were published on 30 December 1954 for the airframe and on 4 February 1955 for the rocket engine. The X-15 was built by two manufacturers: North American Aviation was contracted for the airframe in November 1955, and Reaction Motors was contracted for building the engines in 1956.
Design of X-15
Image source: NASA
Now the planes are ground in National Air & Space museum if you are interested in closer look.
Image source: National Air space museum