Research Aircraft: the X-2 Skyroicket, Images by Wernher Krutein and PHOTOVAULT®

This page contains samples from our Aviation History picture files on the X-2. These images are available for licensing in any media. For Pricing, General Guidelines, and Delivery information click here. You may contact us thru email or by phone for more information on the use of these images, and any others in our files not shown here. Our Research Aircraft images can be linked to as follows: Research Aircraft Volume 1, Research Aircraft Volume 2, Research Aircraft Volume 3

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The X-2 was a swept-wing aircraft designed to fly three times as fast as the speed of sound. It was flown to investigate the problems of aerodynamic heating and stability and control effectiveness at high speeds and altitudes.

When the XS-1 was being developed for history's first supersonic aircraft flights, plans were already underway for the XS-2 (later redesignated the X-2), which would fly at speeds and altitudes vastly greater than its predecessor. It was to be a Mach 3 rocket plane, capable of flights over 100,000 feet.

The X-2's structure had to be able to withstand aerodynamic heating never-before encountered, and the life support systems for the pilot needed to address the dangers of extremely high-altitude, high-airspeed flight. The challenges of developing a unique stainless steel/nickel alloy structure, a new throttleable rocket engine ranging in thrust from 2,500 to 15,000 lbs. of thrust, a jettisonable cockpit capsule, and control system difficulties delayed the program for years. The contract was signed in 1945, the first glide flight was in 1952, and the first powered flight occurred in 1955. Ironically, by that time the X-3, the X-4, and the X-5 had all flown.

The X-2 was a single-place airplane with wings swept back to 40 degrees. It was 37 ft., 10 in. long, 11 ft. high and had a wingspan of 32.3 ft. It was constructed primarily of steel (K-monel) and incorporated a skid-type main landing gear to make more room for fuel. It had an ejectable nose capsule.w

The X-2 was powered by an XLR25-CW-3 two-chambered rocket engine. The Curtiss-Wright-manufactured engine was throttleable and had a thrust of from 2,500 to 15,000 lbs. Two X-2s were made for NACA and the Air Force by Bell Aircraft Co. They were air launched from a B-50 carrier aircraft.

After one X-2 (no. 2 aircraft) was destroyed in an explosion on a captive flight before ever making any powered flights, the other X-2 (no. 1 aircraft) went on to perform as predicted including making a flight on Sept.7, 1956, with Air Force Captain Iven Kincheloe at the controls to an altitude of 126,200 ft. Twenty days later the X-2 program ended when Air Force Captain Milburn Apt piloted the X-2 to its highest speed of 2,094 mph (over three times the speed of sound) before it went out of control and crashed. Captain Apt was fatally injured in the crash.
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