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A Look at NASA's Fabled X-Planes
August 3, 2016
Originally known as the XS-1 (the â€œSâ€ stood for supersonic), the famed Bell X-1 made its first flight in 1946, then broke the sound barrier in â€˜47. Nicknamed Glamorous Glennis by pilot Chuck Yeager, it hit 700 mph at 45,000 feet. The event was historic because scientists and engineers at the time believed that sound waves would become severe and unpredictable at Mach 1. No aircraft, they said, could survive them. As described in Tom Wolfeâ€™s The Right Stuff, test pilots of the era demanded bonuses of up to $150,000 just for attempting the feat. Yeager, however, lit up the record books and broke the so-called barrier on October 14, 1947, for his captainâ€™s pay of $283 a month.(Source: NASA)
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's fabled X-plane series gained a new family member in June, when the agency announced it would put an electric airplane in the air by 2018.
For NASA buffs, it was big news. The historic experimental X-plane series has been shaking the foundation of aerospace technology since the announcement of the legendary X-1, which broke the sound barrier in 1947.
Here, we offer a peek at some of NASA's greatest, from Chuck Yeager's X-1 to the hypersonic X-15 to the abandoned X-30 and beyond.
Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 32 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.
About the Author(s)
Charles Murray is a former Design News editor and author of the book, Long Hard Road: The Lithium-Ion Battery and the Electric Car, published by Purdue University Press. He previously served as a DN editor from 1987 to 2000, then returned to the magazine as a senior editor in 2005. A former editor with Semiconductor International and later with EE Times, he has followed the auto industry’s adoption of electric vehicle technology since 1988 and has written extensively about embedded processing and medical electronics. He was a winner of the Jesse H. Neal Award for his story, “The Making of a Medical Miracle,” about implantable defibrillators. He is also the author of the book, The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1997. Murray’s electronics coverage has frequently appeared in the Chicago Tribune and in Popular Science. He holds a BS in engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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