X-24a lifting body glider

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The rocket plane would go so high that the pilot would need to wear a full-pressure suit, a "space suit".The project was directed by North American's chief engineer, Harrison Storms.The result was a big black spike of an aircraft with stubby wedge wings that would be dropped by a B-52 carrier aircraft for launch to high speeds and altitudes.This chapter provides a survey of the most significant of these efforts, focusing on the "X-15" rocket plane, the "X-20 Dyna-Soar" space vehicle, and the series of wingless test vehicles known as the "lifting bodies".The rocket plane was built of titanium, with a special alloy named "Inconel X" on leading-edge surfaces that were exposed to frictional heating.* The US space shuttle program was to an extent an outgrowth of a number of "X programs" conducted by the US in the early years of the space race.There were twelve reaction thrusters, four in the wings and eight in the nose.However, after the war the US built a series of rocket-powered test aircraft, beginning with the "Bell X-1", the first aircraft to break the sound barrier in level flight.As it turned out, although the Me-163 was the fastest thing in the skies during the war, it was a dismal failure in practice, since its flight endurance was far too short and it was dangerous to fly. Rocket fighters were simply not a very good idea, and nobody else fielded one.

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