Historic Photo Shows Wrecked X-15 after 1962 Mud Lake Crash

x 15 crash wreck  Historic Photo Shows Wrecked X-15 after 1962 Mud Lake Crash(Image: NASA, public domain)

On November 9, 1962, during a research flight in the second X-15 airframe, an engine failure forced NASA pilot Jack McKay to make an emergency landing at Mud lake, Nevada. The impact caused the landing gear to collapse, flipping the aircraft onto its back. McKay escaped with his life, but his injuries eventually forced him to retire from NASA.

The X-15 was returned to its manufacturer, North American, and over the next year underwent extensive repairs and a series of modifications. The rocket-powered X-plane was returned to Edwards AFB in February 1964 with an extended fuselage and external fuel tanks.

mud lake nevada  Historic Photo Shows Wrecked X-15 after 1962 Mud Lake Crash(Image: DigitalGlobe via Google Earth)

Renamed the X-15A-2, the aircraft, tail number 56-6671, also received a complete heat-resistant ablative coating. It’s now on permanent display at the Museum of the USAF in Dayton, Ohio. (Check out our brief history of ‘Balls 8’, the B-52 mothership.)

Space Shuttle Discovery Flies into History – Via Washington, DC

space shuttle discovery washington dc  Space Shuttle Discovery Flies into History – Via Washington, DC(All photos by Storm Climb)

It was an exciting and emotional moment as the Space Shuttle Discovery, the most well known and well travelled of NASA’s orbiters, crossed the Potomac River and flew down the National Mall of Washington, DC, mounted atop the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.  Storm Climb correspondent Camille M was on the scene near Dulles Airport, communicating information about Discovery’s final flight plan to our intrepid reporter in Arlington, VA.

discovery dc  Space Shuttle Discovery Flies into History – Via Washington, DC

For many spectators, this was their first glimpse of the famous shuttle which, along with NASA’s specially modified 747, forms an iconic image that has been reproduced in pictures on the walls of space enthusiasts across the world.  After passing over the Capitol Building, Discovery circled the DC metro area and made several more passes before landing at Dulles Airport at 11am today.

space shuttle discovery washington dc 2  Space Shuttle Discovery Flies into History – Via Washington, DC

This series of images marks the shuttle’s eastern flight path down the National Mall.  In the last image, spectators gather to watch Discovery bank to the north beyond the iconic Washington Monument.  The shuttle was to make one more pass before heading south east towards Maryland and finally back to Dulles – the end of an era, but a fantastic addition to the National Air and Space Museum.

Keep reading – browse these rare and historic images of Space Shuttles Discovery and Endeavour photographed nose to nose for the first time ever at Kennedy Space Center.

Historic Photos Show X-15 Rocket Plane Exiting Paint Shop Sealed for High Speed Flight

x 15 2 ablative  Historic Photos Show X-15 Rocket Plane Exiting Paint Shop Sealed for High Speed Flight

(All images by NASA, public domain)

If you plan to push an air vehicle beyond mach 7, you’re going to need a pretty impressive thermal protection coating to keep the overall temperature of the airframe to manageable – and survivable – levels.  These historic images show the second X-15 emerging from the paint shop sporting the thick white coating engineers hoped would fulfill that task.

x 15 2 ablative coating  Historic Photos Show X-15 Rocket Plane Exiting Paint Shop Sealed for High Speed Flight

As they were to soon discover, the second flight of the newly coated (formerly black) X-15, on October 3, 1967,  was to be the fastest the type would ever undertake, as well as one of the most eventful.  When test pilot Major William J. “Pete” Knight landed back at Edwards AFB, the aircraft’s special ablative coating was said to resemble burnt firewood – you can read the full account here.

Space Shuttle Discovery to Overfly Washington, DC

space shuttle discovery 747  Space Shuttle Discovery to Overfly Washington, DC(Image: David Shapinski, cc-sa-3.0)

It’s an exciting time in Washington, DC as the city prepares for the arrival of the Space Shuttle Discovery, the best known and most travelled of the NASA orbiters.  The space agency has announced that Discovery will fly over the DC metro area mounted atop the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft between 10 – 11am EDT on April 17.  Check out the flyer below, and read the NASA announcement here.

nasa discovery washington  Space Shuttle Discovery to Overfly Washington, DC

Retired Space Shuttle Orbiters in Rare Nose-to-Nose Encounter at Kennedy Space Center

discovery endeavour nose to nose  Retired Space Shuttle Orbiters in Rare Nose-to-Nose Encounter at Kennedy Space Center(All images by NASA, public domain, via Space.com)

During their careers, NASA’s Space Shuttle orbiters lived side-by-side at the Kennedy Space Center, with Atlantis and Endeavour housed in adjoining bays and Discovery assigned to Orbiter Processing Facility-3 (OPF-3) across the road. But in reality, the shuttles rarely crossed paths. These images – which would have been hard to imagine a year ago – show a rare nose-to-nose meeting during a “shuttle shuffle” on August 11.

discovery endeavour  Retired Space Shuttle Orbiters in Rare Nose-to-Nose Encounter at Kennedy Space Center

When NASA’s oldest surviving orbiter Discovery returned from space for the last time on March 9, 2011, the fleet workhorse was decommissioned in OPF-3 before moving into storage in the Vehicle Assembly Building – where the space shuttles were mated with solid rocket boosters prior to flight. Meanwhile, Endeavour was undergoing decomissioning in her assigned bay OPF-1 since returning from space on June 1.

discovery endeavour 2  Retired Space Shuttle Orbiters in Rare Nose-to-Nose Encounter at Kennedy Space Center

With Endeavour’s vital systems and sensitive material removed, the two Space Shuttles switched places in a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into the inner workings of the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. As Endeavour was rolled out of OPF-1, Discovery was towed from the Vehicle Assembly Building, leading to a historic yet muted photo opportunity as the retired orbiters came face-to-face.

discovery endeavour nose to nose 2  Retired Space Shuttle Orbiters in Rare Nose-to-Nose Encounter at Kennedy Space Center

Discovery is now safely tucked away in Endeavour’s original OPF, while the latter moved into storage inside the colossal Vehicle Assembly Building. Atlantis, which became the last shuttle in space despite original plans to retire her early, touched down last month and is presumably undergoing decommissioning in OPF-2 alongside Discovery’s current storage location.

discovery endeavour 3  Retired Space Shuttle Orbiters in Rare Nose-to-Nose Encounter at Kennedy Space Center

For now, we’re hoping NASA won’t pass up the opportunity to photograph all three Space Shuttle orbiters together before they go their separate ways to museums around the country. Meanwhile, Discovery’s long time home – Orbiter Processing Facility-3 – apparently lies empty.

DARPA Loses Track of Falcon Hypersonic HTV-2 over Pacific

darpa falcon htv 2  DARPA Loses Track of Falcon Hypersonic HTV-2 over Pacific(Image: DARPA, public domain)

(DARPA has lost track of its Falcon HTV-2 experimental spaceplane over the Pacific Ocean.  Has it suffered the same fate as last year’s ill-fated mission?  What follows is a background article on the programme and real time updates as the article is being written.)

At the precise moment this article is being written, the DARPA Hypersonic Test Vehicle (HTV-2) – the fastest military aircraft ever built – is two minutes away from launch, as tweeted via @DARPA_News, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  Known as the Falcon project, the spaceplane would be able to travel from London to Sydney in less than an hour while withstanding temperatures greater than 2000 degrees – hotter than the melting point of steel, the Guardian reports.

falcon htv 2 flight trajectory1  DARPA Loses Track of Falcon Hypersonic HTV-2 over Pacific(Image: U.S. Federal Government, public domain)

The unmanned Falcon (Force Application and Launch from Continental United States) is a joint programme of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force. The project aims to develop a hypersonic system that can reach any point on the globe in less than an hour – and potentially deliver weapons.

kwajalein atoll1  DARPA Loses Track of Falcon Hypersonic HTV-2 over Pacific(Image: NASA, public domain)

The HTV-2 is designed to be launched into the upper atmosphere on the back of an expendable Minotaur IV rocket (separation occurred seven minutes ago at time of writing, and as of three minutes ago the spaceplane entered the glide phase). At this point, engineers will guide the Falcon HTV-2 on its 13,000 mph (20 times the speed of sound) flight over the Pacific.

(Image: U.S. Federal Government, public domain)

Today’s test flight of the Falcon HTV-2 – which is a hypersonic glider – will also test the carbon composite materials tasked with ensuring the craft can withstand the extreme temperatures of hypersonic flight. Design and flight pattern alterations have taken place since last year, when the first HTV-2 encountered a problem and was ordered by its onboard computer to ditch into the ocean for safety reasons.

dyna soar  DARPA Loses Track of Falcon Hypersonic HTV-2 over Pacific(Image: NASA, public domain)

Despite this incredible technology, the U.S. government has been experimenting with spaceplanes concepts for decades (like the Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar, above), and the somewhat shadowy Falcon can be seen as the pinnacle of ongoing research. Another classified vehicle, known as the X-41 Common Aero Vehicle (CAV) is also reportedly associated with the programme.

As of three minutes ago, DARPA tweeted: “Range assets have lost telemetery with #HTV2.  More to follow.”

One hour later (5:23pm BST) there have been no new updates – problems?

Approx 5:27pm BST: “Downrange assets did not reacquire tracking or telemetry. #HTV2 has an autonomous flight termination capability. More to follow.”  Has the second test flight gone the same way as the first HTV-2?

Approx 5:55pm BST: Associated Press reports contact lost and DARPA yet to respond to an email requesting further information.

6:10pm BST: Still no further updates…