The X-1B was one of a series of rocket-powered experimental airplanes designed to investigate supersonic flight problems. The X-1B’s flight research primarily related to aerodynamic heating and the use of small “reaction” rockets for directional control.
The X-1B made its first powered flight in October 1954. A few months later, the U.S. Air Force transferred the X-1B to the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), predecessor to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), which conducted the heating and control tests. The X-1B tests played an important role in developing the control systems for the later X-15.
On test missions, the X-1B was carried under a “mother” airplane and released between 25,000-35,000 feet. After release, the rocket engine fired under full throttle for less than five minutes. After all fuel (an alcohol-water mixture) and liquid oxygen had been consumed, the pilot glided the airplane to earth for a landing.
The X-1B made its last flight in January 1958, and it was transferred to the museum a year later.
Engine: Reaction Motors XLR-11-RM-6 four-chamber rocket engine of 6,000 lbs. thrust
Maximum speed: 1,650 mph
Maximum altitude: 90,000 feet
Landing speed: 170 mph
Weight: 16,590 lbs. loaded