shaun3000
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Mar 14, 2002 4:10 pm

How Did X-15 Pilots Find Their Way Back To Kedw?

Sat Nov 16, 2002 4:21 pm

I was thinking about this, today. How did X-15 pilots and the like find their way back to Edwards? Flying at 100,000+ feet, pilotage and dead-reconing are out of the quesiton. And I wouldn't think many of the radio beacons of the day reached that high. So how did they get back? Were there chase planes? Long-range cameras like those used to track NASA launches? Or what?
 
lehpron
Posts: 6846
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2001 3:42 am

RE: How Did X-15 Pilots Find Their Way Back To Kedw?

Sun Nov 17, 2002 8:08 am

They must have had some kind of communication; I doubt they were alone out there.

Perhaps, which is likely, a pre-flight profile was made to estimate when and where to drop the X-15 for launch and a targeted end of flight so the pilots should be able to at least see the base. Out there in one of the many California deserts, Edwards is not surrounded by a city or something like repetitious terrain to where you cannot know where you are going. Especially that long as hell runway, Edwards must have been easy to see.
The meaning of life is curiosity; we were put on this planet to explore opportunities.
 
shaun3000
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Mar 14, 2002 4:10 pm

RE: How Did X-15 Pilots Find Their Way Back To Kedw?

Sun Nov 17, 2002 6:17 pm

Yeah, but going several times the speed of sound, it won't take long for you to get quite a ways from base.
 
jwenting
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Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2001 10:12 pm

RE: How Did X-15 Pilots Find Their Way Back To Kedw?

Mon Nov 18, 2002 12:38 am

Even if radiobeacons wouldn't reach up there (which is unlikely, especially for NDBs which are non-directional so also radiate up and can have ranges of over 100nm) there is always inertial navigation.
Radar and optical tracking was also available so radar vectors could also be given.
I wish I were flying
 
FBU 4EVER!
Posts: 980
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 6:53 am

RE: How Did X-15 Pilots Find Their Way Back To Kedw?

Mon Nov 18, 2002 1:41 am

I have not found any evidence of any nav-aids having been installed in the X-15.
For practical purposes,a straight-line flight and tracking range was established,commencing over Wendover AFB in Utah to Edwards AFB with control and telemetry stations at Ely and Beatty.
The launch B-52 would be guided by the ground control stations to position it at the correct place in space for count-down and launch.The exact point was determined by whether it would be a high-speed mission using the full 485 mi. distance or a shorter distance for high-altitude flights.
Weather conditions had to be acceptable for a full let-down and approach to be made in visual conditions.
The flight was planned to allow the X-15 to arrive overhead Edwards AFB at 15,200 ft altitude and 240 KIAS.Downwind turn would follow at 8,700 ft and 240 KIAS.Final turn followed at 5,800 ft/240 KIAS,flare started at 3,200 ft/240 KIAS.Speed was bled off until touchdown occurred at 180 KIAS.
Communication was by UHF.
Launch altitude was 38,000 ft.
"Luck and superstition wins all the time"!
 
lehpron
Posts: 6846
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2001 3:42 am

RE: How Did X-15 Pilots Find Their Way Back To Kedw?

Tue Nov 19, 2002 7:33 am

"Yeah, but going several times the speed of sound, it won't take long for you to get quite a ways from base. "

Yeah, but most experimental flights that have the intent to come back go a ways from base, turn around and begin the test so that they're close to base at the end of first phase. More than likely, there are a couple of helo's or emergency vehicles around a target-landing zone (a few miles wide) by the time they get there or way before they even start. Understand that they plan this sort of thing months in advance; they don't just fire off and see what happens.

Though that is the essence of experimentation.  Wink/being sarcastic
The meaning of life is curiosity; we were put on this planet to explore opportunities.
 
shaun3000
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Mar 14, 2002 4:10 pm

RE: How Did X-15 Pilots Find Their Way Back To Kedw?

Tue Nov 19, 2002 3:05 pm

I know they plan it out, it's not just a kick the tires, light the fires kinda thing. I guess I hadn't considered them flying out and dropping. I had just assumed they stayed above Edwards during the ascent
 
FBU 4EVER!
Posts: 980
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 6:53 am

RE: How Did X-15 Pilots Find Their Way Back To Kedw?

Tue Nov 19, 2002 8:30 pm

At the speeds the X-15 was operating,anything but a straight-line flightpath/trajectory was out of the question.Therefore the the launch over Wendover for high-speed missions.High-altitude (the so-called Astronaut Flights) were launched somewhat closer to Edwards.The heading for the flight was established by the launching B-52.
"Luck and superstition wins all the time"!

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