NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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X-15 aircraft. An X-15 aircraft ignites its rocket engine prior to launch, circa 1963. Developed by the US Air Force and NASA, the X-15 was a rocket-powered research aircraft designed to investigate flight at hypersonic speeds. Three X-15s flew a total of 199 missions between 1959 and 1968. The X-15 was carried into the air by a converted B-52 bomber and released at high altitude. The pilot then ignited the craft's rocket motor. It was the first plane to reach the edge of outer space and set records for the fastest manned aircraft (7,274 kilometres per hour, or Mach 6.72).
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