Tag Archives: Edwards AFB

18 November 1966

Major William J. Knight, U.S. Air Force, with the modified X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Knight is wearing a David Clark Co. MC-2 full-pressure suit with an MA-3 helmet. (U.S. Air Force)
Major William J. Knight, U.S. Air Force, with the modified X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Knight is wearing a David Clark Co. MC-2 full-pressure suit with an MA-3 helmet. (U.S. Air Force)

18 November 1966: On Flight 175 of the research program, Major William J. (“Pete”) Knight, U.S. Air Force, flew the newly-modified North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, to Mach 6.33 (4,261 miles per hour/6,857 kilometers per hour) at 98,900 feet (30,245 meters). This is just 11 years, to the day, since Pete Everest made the first powered flight in the Bell Aircraft Corporation X-2 rocketplane, with more than 6 times an increase in speed.

On this date, NASA made an attempt to launch two X-15s, -671 and -672, using the NB-52A 52-003 and NB-52B 52-008. However -672, the number three ship, had to abort the mission.

At the left, Boeing NB-52A 52-003 carries X-15 56-6670 while on the right, NB-52B 52-008 carries X-15 56-6671.(NASA)
At the left, Boeing NB-52A 52-003 carries X-15 56-6670 while on the right, NB-52B 52-008 carries X-15 56-6671.(NASA)

Balls 8, the NB-52B, flown by NASA test pilot Fitz Fulton and Colonel Joe Cotton, USAF, carried 56-6671 to the launch point over Mud Lake, Nevada, approximately 200 miles to the north of Edwards AFB. (This was the lake where -671 was severely damaged in an emergency landing, 9 November 1962. It was returned to North American to be rebuilt to the X-15A-2 configuration and returned to flight operation 19 months later.)

At 1:24:07.2 p.m. local time, Pete Knight and the X-15 were dropped from the pylon under the right wing of the B-52. He ignited the Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 and began to accelerate with its 57,000 pounds of thrust (253.549 kilonewtons).

Since this was to be a high temperature test flight, it was planned to fly no higher than 100,000 feet (30,480 meters). The denser atmosphere would result in greater aerodynamic heating of the rocketplane.

With the two external propellant tanks carrying an additional 1,800 gallons (6,814 liters) of liquid ammonia and liquid oxygen, the engine ran for 2 minutes, 16.4 seconds. The rocketplane had accelerated to Mach 2. The external tanks emptied in about 60 seconds and were jettisoned. The tanks were equipped with parachutes. They were recovered to be reused on later flights.

The X-15, now about 25,000 pounds (11,340 kilograms) lighter and without the aerodynamic drag of the tanks, continued to accelerate. At its highest speed, the rocketplane was travelling approximately 6,500 feet per second (1,981 meters per second), more than twice as fast as a high-powered rifle bullet. Its surface temperatures exceeded 1,200 °F. (649 °C.)

Knight landed the X-15 on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base. The duration of this flight had been 8 minutes, 26.8 seconds.

The modified North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, with external propellant tanks mounted. (NASA)
The modified North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, with external propellant tanks mounted. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 October 1955

The first of two Republic YF-105A-1-RE Thunderchief prototypes, 54-098, on Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1955. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic Aviation test pilot Russell M. "Rusty" Roth. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Republic Aviation Corporation test pilot Russell M. “Rusty” Roth. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

22 October 1955: At Edwards Air Force Base, in the high desert of southern California, Republic Aviation Corporation test pilot Russell M. (“Rusty”) Roth took the first of two prototype YF-105A-1-REs, serial number 54-098, for its first flight.

Though equipped with an under-powered Pratt & Whitney J57-P-25 interim engine, the new airplane was able to reach Mach 1.2 in level flight.

Aerodynamic improvements to the engine intakes and redesign of the fuselage to incorporate the drag-reducing “area rule,” along with the more powerful J75-P-5 turbojet engine allowed the production model F-105B to reach Mach 2.15.

The Thunderchief is the largest single-place, single-engine aircraft ever built. It was a Mach 2 fighter-bomber, designed for NATO defensive tactical nuclear strikes with a nuclear bomb carried in an internal bomb bay. The YF-105A was 61 feet, 5 inches (18.720 meters) long, 17 feet, 6 inches with a wing span of 34 feet, 11 inches (10.643 meters) 17 feet, 6 inches (5.334 meters) high. Its empty weight was 21,010 pounds (9,530 kilograms).

The Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3C (J57-P-25) was a two-spool axial-flow turbojet engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7 high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). It produced 10,200 pounds of thrust (45.372 kilonewtons), and 17,200 pounds (76.509 kilonewtons) with afterburner.

During testing, the prototype’s maximum speed was 857 miles per hour (1,379 kilometers per hour) at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters)—Mach 1.29—and 778 miles per hour (1,252 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level—Mach 1.02. The YF-105A’s service ceiling was 49,950 feet (15,225 meters).

Repiblic YF-105A 54-098 landing at Edwards Air Force Base. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)
Republic YF-105A 54-098 landing at Edwards Air Force Base. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

The Thunderchief was armed with a General Electric M61 20×102 mm six-barrel rotary cannon with 1,028 rounds of ammunition. 8,000 pounds (3,629 kilograms) of bombs could be carried in an internal bomb bay or on external hardpoints. A single free-fall B28IN variable-yield thermonuclear bomb could be carried in the bomb bay.

On 16 December 1955, YF-105A 54-098 made an emergency landing at Edwards AFB after one of its main landing gear assemblies was torn off when it failed to retract during a high speed flight. The pilot, Rusty Roth, was severely injured, but he survived. The prototype was shipped back to Republic for repair, but the cost was determined to be prohibitive.

Though designed for air-to-ground attack missions, F-105s are officially credited with 27.5 victories in air combat.

833 Thunderchiefs were built by Republic between 1955 and 1964. 334 of those were lost to enemy action during the Vietnam War. The F-105 remained in service with the United States Air Force until 1980, and with a few Air National Guard units until 1983.

Republic F-105D-5-RE Thunderchief 58-1173 carrying a bomb load of sixteen 750-pound M117 general purpose bombs. (U.S. Air Force)
Republic F-105D-5-RE Thunderchief 58-1173 carrying a bomb load of sixteen 750-pound M117 general purpose bombs. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 September 1984

Space Shuttle Discovery landing on Rogers Dry Lake, 0637 PDT, 5 September 1984. (NASA)

5 September 1984: Space Shuttle Discovery, OV-103, completed its first space flight, STS-41-D,  when it landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, at 6:37 a.m. PDT (13:37:54 UTC), 5 September 1984. It had completed 97 orbits of the Earth. The total duration of its flight was 6 days, 56 minutes, 4 seconds.

The purpose of the mission was to place three communications satellites into orbit, and to deploy an experimental solar panel array. Various other experiments were also carried out.

The Mission Commander was Henry W. Hartsfield, Jr., making his second space flight. Shuttle Pilot Michael L. Coats was on his first. Three Mission Specialists, Richard M. Mullane, Steven A. Hawley, Judith A. Resnick, and Payload Specialist Charles D. Walker, were all on their first space flight.

A highlight of this mission was the onboard filming by the crew of footage for the IMAX film, The Dream Is Alive.

Discovery is the space shuttle fleet leader, having made 39 orbital flights, more than any other shuttle.

Mission Specialist Judith Arlene Resnick was a crew member of shuttle mission STS-51-L. She was killed when Challenger was destroyed shortly after launch, 28 January 1986.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 August 1967

Major William J. Knight, U.S. Air Force, with the modified X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)
Major William J. Knight, U.S. Air Force, with the modified X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. (U.S. Air Force)

21 August 1967: On the 186th flight of the X-15 program, the modified North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, made the first of two flights with a heat-protective ablative coating, designed to protect the steel structure of the rocketplane from the extreme heat of flight at high Mach numbers.

After a landing accident which caused significant damage to the Number 2 X-15, it was rebuilt by North American. A 28-inch (0.71 meter) “plug” was installed in the fuselage forward of the wings to create space for a liquid hydrogen fuel tank which would be used for an experimental “scramjet” engine that would be mounted the the ventral fin. The modified aircraft was also able to carry two external fuel tanks. It was hoped that additional propellant would allow the X-15A-2 to reach much higher speeds. The external tanks were not carried on the 21 August 1967 flight.

With Major William J. (“Pete”) Knight, U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit, the X-15A-2 was airdropped from the Boeing NB-52B Stratofortress, 52-008, known as Balls 8, over Hidden Hills Dry Lake, just on the California side of the border with Nevada. This was Knight’s 11th X-15 flight, and the 52nd flight for 56-6671. The launch time was 10:59:16.0 a.m., PDT. Knight fired the 57,000-pound-thrust Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 rocket engine and accelerated for 82.2 seconds. The purpose of this flight was to attain a high speed rather than altitude. The X-15A-2 reached Mach 4.94 (3,368 miles per hour, 5,420 kilometers per hour) at 85,000 feet (25,908 meters) and reached a peak altitude of 91,000 feet (27,737 meters). Pete Knight touched down on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, just 7 minutes, 40.0 seconds after launch.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 August 1972

McDonnell Douglas YF-15A-1-MC Eagle, 71-0280, with McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom II chase plane, in flight near Edwards AFB. (U.S. Air Force)

3 August 1972: During a 45-minute test flight at Edwards Air Force Base, the McDonnell Douglas YF-15A-1-MC Eagle prototype, 71-0280, went supersonic for the first time, reaching Mach 1.5.

An air-superiority fighter, the F-15 entered service with the United States Air Force in 1975. More than 1,500 fighter, two-seat trainer, and two-seat F-15E Strike Eagle fighter-bombers have been built by McDonnell Douglas and Mitsubishi. It is operated by allied air forces around the world and is expected to remain in front line service until 2025.

McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle. (Defense Media Network)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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