X-15 Rocket Plane Sets World Speed Record


The X-15 Rocked Plane in Flight

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

October 3, 1967

On October 3, 1967, U.S. Air Force pilot Pete Knight flew the S-15 Rocket Plane to a world speed record for a winged aircraft of Mach 6.7, which is 4,520 mph.  This was the fastest recorded flight of the X-15 Rocket Plane and is over 1.3 miles per second.  The flight reached 19.3 miles (31.1 km).

The experimental Air Force program flew 199 missions from an unpowered test flight by Scott Crossfield on 8 June 1959 to October 24th 1968. In all 12 different pilots flew the plane including Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.  The highest flight recorded was by Joe Walker on August 1963, reaching an altitude of 67 miles. There are two definitions of how high a person must go to be referred to as an astronaut. The USAF decided to award astronaut wings to anyone who achieved an altitude of 50 miles (80 km) (80.5 km) or more. However, the FAIset the limit of space at 100 kilometers (62.1 mi). Thirteen X-15 flights went higher than 50 miles (80 km) and two of these reached over 100 kilometers.