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Some X-15 builds….

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  • Member since
    January 2018
  • From: Manchester, UK
Posted by DHanners55 on Sunday, March 19, 2023 3:58 PM

Thanks. I'm old enough to remember the old Aurora X-15. The box art looked a lot cooler (and was more accurate) than the actual model, though.

A bit of trivia on the X-15's color.... The body was made of Inconel, a nickel-based alloy. It is silver in color. Prior to the rollout of X-15-1 in October 1958, many of those associated with the program figured the vehicle that would be unveiled to the public would be silver. But a day or so before the rollout, the X-15 was painted black.

All three X-15s were painted black for their respective rollouts. But the heat of supersonic flight burned the paint off, and the exposure to the heat turned the Inconel a bluish-black.

Throughout the program, technicians had difficulty keeping markings on the X-15s because the high speeds turned paint into a gooey mess. The most consistent example of that was the blue NASA "meatball" on the yellow dart on the nose. If you look at post-flight photos, more often than not the meatball is a smudged blue mess or even gone. It was usually always repainted before the next flight.

Here is 66672 (on its last flight before Michael Adams' fatal crash) showing the baked NASA meatball. Curiously, X-15-3 was the only airframe to have its number -- 3 -- painted on its nose.

One of the reasons I wanted to model 66670 as it looked on its last flight was because of the weathered markings. By that point in the program, markings were very minimal -- and those that remained were pretty baked. Oddly, the flaps retain the NO STEP markings that were on the early flights but had burned off or were removed after only a few flights. It is doubtful technicians would have reapplied them, so I'm trying to find if the flaps on 66670's flight were a spare set that had been laying around. The crews had a habit of mixing parts from the three X-15s.

After the last flight, 66670 was placed in storage before being shipped to the Smithsonian; today it hangs in the NASM. Before it was shipped to Washington, NASA restored many of the markings, including the yellow NASA bands on the tail and the national markings on the fuselage and wings.

  • Member since
    March 2005
  • From: West Virginia, USA
Posted by mfsob on Sunday, March 19, 2023 10:48 AM

Now that is some cool history right there, and out of paper to boot. Well done. I remember building one of the plastic kits when I was a kid, and not having to paint it (bonus!) because it was molded in black.

  • Member since
    January 2018
  • From: Manchester, UK
Some X-15 builds….
Posted by DHanners55 on Saturday, March 11, 2023 3:59 PM

Here are some card builds, in 1/48th scale, of various versions of the three X-15s. Over the course of their 199 flights, the three X-15s carried a variety of markings, and I've tried to represent some interesting/historic ones.

The first photo is of X-15-1, 66670, as it appeared on its first flight, Mission 1-2-7, flown by Scott Crossfield on 23 January 1960. I scratchbuilt the XLR-11 motor and other bits.

The second photo is of 66670 as it appeared on its very last flight, Mission 1-81-141, flown by William Dana on 24 October 1968. I scratchbuilt the XLR-99 motor, the wingtip pods and other bits.

The third photo is of X-15-2, 66671, as it appeared on Mission 2-21-37, Robert White's Mach 6 flight of 9 November 1961. The vehicle had test patches of white heat-resistant paint. Some printed and online sources show the patches on both sides of the canopy and fuselage, but photographic evidence shows the patches were on the left side only.

The next two photos are of the X-15A-2 as it appeared on 3 October 1967 when Pete Knight set the world speed record of Mach 6.7. The white coating was a sealant applied over the ablative, which was pink. An accuracy note about the all-white X-15A-2: I've Seen lots of folks model it in plastic or resin, but the markings are often incorrect for the world speed-record flight, which was mission 2-53-97; for example, a popular plastic and resin kit of the vehicle has markings that claim to be from the record flight but were actually from an earlier captive flight, 2-C-93. The ones depicted here are correct for 2-53-97.

Also, when technicians applied the white sealant over the pink ablative, they didn't apply it heavily under the wings and tailplanes; the ablative actually showed through. The white sealant was quite streaky, which I replicated by drybrushing watercolors.

The last photo is of X-15-3, 66672, as it appeared on Mission 3-22-36, 22 August 1963 when Joe Walker set an altitude record of 67.1 miles.

X-15-1 first flight markingsX-15-1 final flight markingsX-15-2 speed record markingsX-15A-2 world speed recordX-15A-2 world speed recordX-15-3 world altitude record


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