The X-15 Rocket Plane

Flying the First Wings into Space

by Michelle Evans

"The X-15 Rocket Plane"

Links

"The X-15 Rocket Plane, Flying the First Wings into Space" is a book chronicling the human history of the most successful research aircraft ever flown.

The X-15 rocket aircraft was 50 feet long, 22 feet across its wings, and stood 12 feet high. Twelve pilots flew 199 missions from June 1959 until October 1968. They reached Mach 6.70 (4,520 mph) and an altitude of 354,200 feet (67.1 miles) during the course of the program. Eight of the twelve pilots flew high enough to earn astronaut wings (although only five of them actually were awarded during the program). One pilot lost his life.

This book is a long-term project to cover all aspects of the program through interviews with not only the pilots who flew it, but also the managers, flight planners, mechanics, engineers, families, and even a few rocket scientists.

The research includes more than 70 interviews, an archive of more than 2,100 photographs (many privately held and never before seen), and the most comprehensive and accurate flight log ever produced for the X-15. An early version of my flight log was published in the book, "X-15: The NASA Mission Reports."

My purpose is to tell the story of one of the most famous rocket planes ever flown as it has never been told before. This is a personal journey of the interesting and exciting aspects previously left only with those who experienced it first hand.

On 24 February 2009, while in a nursing home recovering from an accident that left me unable to walk, a contract was signed with the University of Nebraska Press (UNP) for my book to become a part of their Outward Odyssey: A People's History of Spaceflight series of human space exploration history books. The completed manuscript was sent to the publisher on 6 August 2011. Following reviews and modifications, the final version was sent to UNP on 1 March 2012. Publication occurred in mid-April 2013. I have a large section of my site devoted to Supplemental Material for the book.

Program logo: The X-15 logo at the upper left was created by me in late 1984. I have always been a patch collector, and during my early interviews I asked if anyone knew of a patch designed for the X-15 program. No one was familiar with one, so I decided to create my own. I even went so far as to hand sew the very first patch! The design was later picked up by Thomas Aviation for mass production and sale. The patch went off the market when TA went out of business after the owners divorced. My design first appeared in a published work in February 1994, when my "X-15: Research at High Mach," appeared, and continues to be used by myself in reference to anything concerning the X-15 program. There have been a few knock-off versions over the years, but the official patch is now available for sale through my web site. Click here for more info.

It was later discovered that a patch did exist during the actual X-15 program, but that it was extremely limited in distribution, so much so in fact that I have discovered only one person who actually had it while working on the X-15.

Logo description: My design is very specific for the X-15 program in that it signifies the high-speed shock waves of hypersonic flight, as well as a deep blue star field indicative of the altitude flights. The three stars in the field signify the agencies involved: NASA at the top, the U.S. Air Force (below left), and the U.S. Navy (below right), while the X-15 itself honors North American Aviation, the prime contractor for the rocket plane.

Supplemental Material includes download documents for the "In the Footsteps of the X-15 Tour" and "X-15 Flight Log," along with more than 500 photographs tied directly to each chapter of the book.

"The X-15 Rocket Plane" is featured on page 15 of the University of Nebraska Press Spring/Summer 2013 catalog. Order of the book is available through UNP at the Author's Book Page and through all major booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

X-15 Links

Flight Test Memorabilia

(Edwards Flight Test)

 

X-15.com

 

X-15 DVD set

 

Mike Adams Memorial

 

Rocket Lube

(Mike Adams' son)

March 1, 2012. The printed copy of the manuscript in hand before boxing it up to send to the publisher.

February 24, 2009. With Cherie looking over my shoulder, I signed my UNP book contract for "X-15: Wings Into Space." I was residing in a nursing home recovering from a horrible set of accidents that left me with two broken legs. Not the ideal situation under which to start a book project, but a great way to lift my spirits in very unpleasant circumstances.

March 23, 2013. My first book fair. I was invited to Lake Elsinore to join other authors for this fair. It was great fun even though I did not yet have copies of the book to sell. Instead, I was handing out postcards advertising the book and showing off Thommy's great art.

April 17, 2013. A mysterious box appeared on our doorstep this afternoon. Could it be? Yes it is! The books have arrived! After nearly 30 years it has finally become a reality.

June 12, 2013. Meeting with Francis French at Killer Pizza From Mars. On January 12, 2008, Cherie and I met with Francis at this same spot where he asked me if I was still working on my X-15 book. When I said, "Yes," he asked if he could put me in contact with Colin Burgess about my book possibly becomimg part of the Outward Odyssey series. On this night at KPFM we truly came full circle on this project. Thank you Francis.

May 28, 2013. After working with Colin Burgess, the series editor for Outward Odyssey, for nearly five years, Cherie and I finally had a chance to meet and spend time with Colin on his way back to Australia after Spacefest. We had lunch at the Encounter Restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport, where this photo was taken.

 

I had only met Colin in person on one previous occasion, but that was when I was on heavy pain medication in the nursing home four years earlier, so this time around was a much better experience! Colin, thank you for creating a truly fantastic series of books on the history of space exploration.

Thommy Eriksson created the exclusive artwork on the cover and for the interior of "The X-15 Rocket Plane." These photos of Thommy show his workstation where the images came to life in Göteborg, Sweden. Note that he is wearing an X-15 program patch on his jacket, and some of his X-15 work is visible on his screens. All of his beautiful artwork is available for sale on this page.

X-15 pilot Joe Engle with his copy of the book at his home in Houston. Gen. Engle wrote the foreword and has spoken about the X-15 many times.

photo by Jeanie Engle

These two images were some of the first sent to me by Thommy in April 2005 showing his dedication to the X-15. They have now evolved into the type of images you see with the amazing cover art he created for the book. Seven additional images are used throughout the book to illustrate areas that have never been seen in the X-15 program. All of the images he created are featured in color throughout the Supplemental Material section of my web site.

Signing books at the AIAA talk in Huntington Beach on 22 October 2013.

photo by Robert Kline

Setting up the presentation for Griffith Observatory on 18 November 2013.

photo by Anthony Cook, Griffith Observatory

On a recent visit to the Michael Adams monument, Bob Kline snapped this photo with my book open to the chapter dedicated to Major Adams.

A small X-15 display set up for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics talk on 22 October 2013.