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Hypersonic: The Story of the North American X-15 [Hardcover]

Dennis R. Jenkins , Tony Landis
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 2003
Nineteen years before Space Shuttle, the small, black, rocket-powered, bullet-shaped X-15 showed it was possible to fly into-and out of-space. There had never been anything like the X-15; it had a million-horsepower engine and could fly twice as fast as a rifle bullet. The X-15 set records that stood for years.

"Hypersonic" is the most extensively researched history of the X-15 program yet produced. The book was written with the cooperation of surviving X-15 pilots as well as many other program principals and is based on six years of research in Air Force, NASA, and North American archives assembling. It covers the tasks of converting and testing the B-52 carrier airplanes, building the first full-pressure suits to protect the pilot, building the first engineering mission simulators, acquiring the remote lakebed landing sites, and building the radar range. It also covers the flight program is covered in detail, including the most authoritative flight log ever assembled; in many instances, information in this log was derived from the original flight data recordings. Also covered are each of the experiments that were flown aboard the X-15 late in its career when it became the workhorse of the space program, carrying such things as startrackers destined for the Apollo program and missile detection systems that would later be sent into orbit on satellites.

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Rocket plane: The term now conjures images from vintage pulp sci-fi. But in a program that began years before Gagarin and Shepard launched the space race, NASA's X-15 research vehicle ambitiously arched towards the fringes of space, expanding the speed-and-altitude envelope of manned flight like none before it. In the course of a 199 flights over a decade, the X-15 became the first manned aircraft to rocket past Mach 4, 5 and 6; soared some 67 miles above the Earth (earning a handful of its dozen pilots their Astronaut wings, though ironically not Neil Armstrong, later first to set foot on the Moon); and crucially gathered the cornerstone data that enabled the Space Shuttle's return from space a couple decades later. Authors/historians/archivists Dennis Jenkins and Tony Landis have produced nothing short of a landmark history of the X-15's pioneering effort which, they argue, was the most productive flight test program ever)-- the first truly comprehensive chronicle of every phase of its pre-history, development, and often perilous journeys (USAF pilot Mike Adams was killed on one of the craft's final flights, while several others suffered injuries in mishaps). Fueled by an obvious passion for their subject, the authors skillfully boil a daunting body of history, technical data, and personalities down into an eminently accessible chronicle of technical achievement and human bravery. In doing so they've drawn on a wealth of documentary materials and interviews from pilots, NASA and USAF sources and key personnel from North American Aviation, the X-15's manufacturer. Pilots Scott Crossfield and Bill Dana (the first and last to fly the spaceplane, respectively) have also contributed written introductions. --Jerry McCulley

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars No binding problems here April 9 2003
I am one of the authors, and was a bit concerned by a point raised in Mr. Reid's review. I appreciate that he liked the book, and I truly hope he enjoys it.
However, if Mr. Reid feels the binding is causing him concern, I suggest he contact the publisher. I have had my book (I get an advance) for a while now and have not noticed any cause for concern, and my copy has been extensively looked through by a lot of people. This printer generally turns out a very superior product, and I know that the publisher was excited by this book and would not have scrimped on the binding. Perhaps Mr. Reid simply somehow received a defective copy.
I urge Mr. Reid to call Specialty to resolve the issue. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading it and looking at all the great photos Tony managed to find for it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outta Sight!! July 18 2003
I admit it- if it was built by North American, I'll usually like it.
But Jenkins and Landis have scored big with this book.
The X-15 was the most sucessful X-plane. but so much was unknown about what it did in it's 199 flights, and the fact is-it's successes were not yelled from the top of the N.A.A. plant at Los Angeles!
Everyone who loved that aircraft felt that there was a void until recently. The Apogee book and this one especially, tell the story about how we pursued entry into space with wings. "Hypersonic" is the book that future Historians will be using to learn about the fantastic feats that the X-15 accomplished. This volume and the follow up scrapbook are long overdue homage to those first early days of manned spaceflight!
This is THE must read book about the X-15!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable contribution to Aviation History April 18 2003
Collaboratively compiled and written by aviation experts Dennis R. Jenkins and Tony R. Landis, Hypersonic: The Story Of The North American X-15 is an immensely detailed and comprehensive look at the North American X-15, the fastest airplane ever built, and the only vehicle ever flown by a pilot (instead of by a computer) into space and back. 500 black-and-white photographs, 50 color photographs, and 100 line drawings (including some never-before-seen images), are deftly paired with an in-depth commentary on both the history and the technical specifications of this superb aircraft. Hypersonic is a most memorable tribute to the predecessor of the Space Shuttle and an invaluable contribution to Aviation History reference collections.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book March 16 2003
This is possibly the best book ever written about a research airplane. Perhaps best of all, it has forewords written by two X-15 pilots. The book covers the events leading up to the NACA deciding to build the airplane, the process that the military went through to fund it and the evolution of the configuration. The book takes the program all the way through finding the lakebeds that served as emergency landings sites and the development ifh the radar stations that tracked the X-15. The book contains hundreds of absolutely stunning photographs that I have never seen before and excellent color profiles of both the X-15 and the NB-52 carrier aircraft. This is a "must buy" for anybody interested in the X-15.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book for X-15 book collectors April 6 2003
As one of the other reviewers noted, there are such a collection of previously not widely published photos that for that reason alone, X-15 enthusiasts should add this book to their collection.
While the quality of the typesetting, graphs and especially the photos is extremely high, I have some serious concern about the quality of the perfect binding. I treat my references gently, but this one already has me a bit concerned about the pages staying with it after even a bit of usage.
However, even if I had to use this loose-leaf, it would be added to my collection right away. Hard to imagine that such a trove of "good stuff" was not previously published.
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