The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings into Space

( 3 )

Overview

With the Soviet Union’s launch of the first Sputnik satellite in 1957, the Cold War soared to new heights as Americans feared losing the race into space. The X-15 Rocket Plane tells the enthralling yet little-known story of the hypersonic X-15, the winged rocket ship that met this challenge and opened the way into human-controlled spaceflight.

Drawing on interviews with those who were there, Michelle Evans captures the drama and excitement of, yes, rocket science: how to handle ...

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The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings into Space

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Overview

With the Soviet Union’s launch of the first Sputnik satellite in 1957, the Cold War soared to new heights as Americans feared losing the race into space. The X-15 Rocket Plane tells the enthralling yet little-known story of the hypersonic X-15, the winged rocket ship that met this challenge and opened the way into human-controlled spaceflight.

Drawing on interviews with those who were there, Michelle Evans captures the drama and excitement of, yes, rocket science: how to handle the heat generated at speeds up to Mach 7, how to make a rocket propulsion system that could throttle, and how to safely reenter the atmosphere from space and make a precision landing.

This book puts a human face on the feats of science and engineering that went into the X-15 program, many of them critical to the development of the Space Shuttle. And, finally, it introduces us to the largely unsung pilots of the X-15. By the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing, thirty-one American astronauts had flown into space—eight of them astronaut-pilots of the X-15. The X-15 Rocket Plane restores these pioneers, and the others who made it happen, to their rightful place in the history of spaceflight.

Browse more spaceflight books at upinspace.org.

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Editorial Reviews

Rick Searfoss

“This book gives a fascinating and superbly detailed look into X-15 technology and the dedicated people who first took a winged craft beyond the atmosphere. Along the way it teaches valuable and pertinent lessons for those of us in the private space sector now working to build on that phenomenal legacy.”—Rick Searfoss, colonel, USAF retired, space shuttle commander and pilot, XCOR Aerospace chief test pilot
Quest - Richard P. Hallion

"This is a remarkably fine work, one that, despite all the writings on the X-15 to date, has found its own authentic voice."—Richard P. Hallion, Quest
Book Verdict - John Carver Edwards

"[The X-15 Rocket Plane is] a cogently written and well-deserved tribute to the individuals who helped take a winged rocket beyond Earth's confining atmosphere."—John Carver Edwards, Book Verdict
American Space

"Engle and Armstrong devotees won’t be disappointed with the stories about their heroes in this tome."—American Space
Space Review - Anthony Young

"The X-15 Rocket Plane is an engaging account of America's push into space before pilots became astronauts, and America began a new era of exploration beyond the Earth to the Moon."—Anthony Young, Space Review
WTBF-AM/FM Book Bit
"The importance of the X-15 on the early exploration of space and the subsequent development of the Shuttle program cannot be overstated."—Book Bit, WTBF-AM/FM
Homer Hickam

“Long before the space shuttle, the United States was flying astronauts with the courage of lions into space aboard wings of steel. This is the story of the astonishing X-15, America’s first space plane, which broke records nearly every time it flew. It is a magnificent tale, well told in this meticulously researched book. Everyone with an interest in aviation, space, or high-flying adventure should read it.”—Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys
Library Journal
This is the latest entry in a series that emphasizes personalities over technology and nationalism. Evans (founder, Mach 25 Media) covers this rocket-powered aircraft, a pioneer of the U.S. space program and one that evolved through numerous malfunctions and modifications, by means of profiles of individuals involved in the X-15 program. The 12 pilots included (five from NASA, five from the U.S. Air Force, with one each from North American Aviation and the U.S. Navy) flew 199 missions in the rocket plane from June 1959 until October 1968, with pilots William "Pete" Knight attaining Mach 6.70 and Joseph A. Walker climbing to a maximum altitude of 67 miles. Heavily sourced through 70 participant interviews, the pilot profiles cover not only the individuals who flew the craft but also their flight planners, managers, mechanics, engineers, scientists, and even family members. Aerospace specialists and aficionados will appreciate Evans's introduction detailing her lifelong interest in space exploration and her afterword, which offers a poignant necrology of X-15 staff. A foreword by Major General Joe H. Engle comments on his own crowded hours as a 16-mission pilot. The book includes a modest glossary; additional photographs may be found on the author's website, www.mach25media.com/x11501.html. VERDICT A cogently written and well-deserved tribute to the individuals who helped take a winged rocket beyond Earth's confining atmosphere.—John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland
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Product Details

Meet the Author


Michelle Evans is the founder of Mach 25 Media and is an aerospace writer, photographer, and education specialist. She served in the U.S. Air Force working on nuclear missiles, is the producer of several documentaries about space exploration, and is a contributor to Space Daily, Space.com, and Ad Astra. Joe H. Engle was the eighth pilot of the X-15 research aircraft and flew sixteen rocket plane missions. He later orbited the earth as the commander of the space shuttle Columbia and again with Discovery.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2013

    Excellent book on X-15 and personalities involved

    An excellent insight into the incredible X-15 and the people (and not just the pilots) involved. The technical aspects are written in a clear, easy to understand manner.
    Only part I had problems with was the section on Hollywood. I think it would have been better if that part had been about half as long or less.
    Good read. Hard to put down. .

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2013

    This is absolutely the definitive story of the greatest research

    This is absolutely the definitive story of the greatest research aircraft that ever flown, the X-15. Can't recommend it highly enough. If you have any interest in aerospace history, and especially the people who made it all happen, this is the book for you. Meet Neil Armstrong as you've never seen him before. Meet the other pilots like Scott Crossfield, Joe Walker, and Pete Knight, not to mention the guys behind the scenes who kept this beautiful aircraft flying. Hope you'll check it out as it is well worth it. You won't be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2014

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