Follow-On Scientific Experiments

It became apparent early in the program that the X-15's could perform a valuable function, not foreseen in the original planning, as reusable carriers for a wide variety of scientific experiments. Some 15 such experiments which have returned useful data are tabulated below: A quick scan of the list reveals that all but a few of the experiments deal with space problems.

Multiple experiments were carried on many flights, and the X-15 system, unlike space rocket testing, permitted full recovery of the equipment, recalibration, and repeat runs where needed. In nearly all cases use of the X-15 was the least costly and quickest means of achieving the desired data.

Figure 18 - solar spectrum instrumentation in wing-tip pod
Figure 18. Solar spectrum instrumentation in wing-tip pod.

An illustration of the solar spectrum equipment is shown as an example in figure 18. The equipment is mounted in a wing tip pod, and is exposed after the aircraft reaches the high altitude environment. A second type of experiment involved testing the insulation of the Saturn booster on the dive brakes of the X-15 where the severe real-environmental heating situation of the Saturn could be duplicated (fig. 19).

Figure 19 - Saturn insulation on X-15
Figure 19. Saturn insulation on X-15 dive break showing
flow-field rake and photographic reference grid..

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