The X-15 pilots clown around in front of the #2 aircraft.From left to right: USAF Capt. Joseph Engle, USAF Maj. Robert Rushworth, NASA test pilot John "Jack" McKay, USAF Maj. William "Pete" Knight, NASA test pilot Milton Thompson, and NASA test pilot William Dana.First flown in 1959 from the NASA High Speed Flight Station (later renamed the Dryden Flight Research Center), the rocket powered X-15 was developed to provide data on aerodynamics, structures, flight controls and the physiological aspects of high speed, high altitude flight.Three were built by North American Aviation for NASA and the U.S. Air Force. They made a total of 199 flights during a highly successful research program lasting almost ten years, following which its speed and altitude records for winged aircraft remained unbroken until the Space Shuttle first returned from earth orbit in 1981. The X-15's main rocket engine provided thrust for the first 80 to 120 seconds of a 10 to 11 minute flight; the aircraft then glided to a 200 mph landing.The X-15 reached altitudes of 354,200 feet (67.08 miles) and a speed of 4,520 mph (Mach 6.7).
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