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Ultimate Zoom Flight

Fifty-seven years ago today, USAF Major Robert W. Smith zoomed the rocket-powered USAF/Lockheed NF-104A to an unofficial world record altitude of 120,800 feet. This mark still stands as the highest altitude ever achieved by a United States aircraft from a runway take-off. A zoom maneuver is one in which aircraft… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Final Flight: Bell X-2, Ship One

Sixty-four years ago today, the No. 1 USAF/Bell X-2 rocket-powered flight research aircraft reached a record speed of 2,094 mph with USAF Captain Milburn G. “Mel” Apt at the controls. However, triumph quickly turned to tragedy when the aircraft departed controlled flight, crashed to destruction, and Apt perished. Mel Apt’s… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, Final Flight, History

Entering Space

Sixty-four years ago today, the rocket-powered USAF/Bell X-2 aircraft established a new altitude record when the vehicle soared to 126,200 feet above sea level. This historic accomplishment took place on the penultimate mission of the type’s troubled 20-flight aeronautical research program. The X-2 was the successor to Bell’s X-1A rocket-powered… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Moving Target

Thirty-five years ago this month, the USAF/LTV ASM-135 anti-satellite missile successfully intercepted a target satellite orbiting 300 nautical miles above surface of the Earth. The historic test was the first and only time that an aircraft-launched missile successfully engaged and destroyed an orbiting spacecraft. The United States began testing anti-satellite… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Echo 1A Satellite

Sixty years ago this month, the United States successfully launched the Echo 1A passive communications satellite into Earth orbit. The 100-foot diameter balloon was among the largest objects ever to orbit the Earth. A plethora of earth-orbiting communication satellites provide for a global connectivity that is commonplace today. Such was… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Falling From Space

Sixty years ago this week, USAF Captain Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr. successfully completed a daring parachute jump from 102,800 feet (19.5 miles). The historic bailout took place over the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico. Kittinger’s jump was the final mission of the three-jump Project Excelsior flight research effort which focused… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Supersonic Landing Gear Deployment

Fifty-six years ago this month, the fabled North American X-15 hit a speed of 3,590 mph (Mach 5.23) in a flight that reached an altitude of 103,300 feet. While decelerating through Mach 4.2, the nose gear of the aircraft unexpectedly deployed in flight. The 114th powered flight of the legendary… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests

Forty-three years ago this month, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise successfully completed the first free flight of the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) Program. NASA Astronauts Fred W. Haise, Jr. and Charles G. “Gordon” Fullerton were at the controls of the pathfinder orbiter vehicle (OV-101). Developers of the Space Shuttle… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Riding the Thunder

Sixty-one years ago to the day, Marine Lieutenant Colonel William Henry Rankin was forced to eject from his Vought F8U Crusader (SN 143696) when the aircraft’s turbojet engine seized at 47,000 feet.  Unfortunately, Rankin’s post-bailout descent took him into a powerful thunderstorm that subjected the pilot to a cacophony of… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History

Men on the Moon

Fifty-one years ago today, the United States of America landed two men on the surface of the Moon. This feat marked the first time in history that men from the planet Earth set foot on another celestial body in the solar system. The Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle landed in… Read More

Posted in Aerospace, History