Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Breaking News: The Right Stuff Has Past


The Right Stuff
It was just after sunup on the morning of October 14, 1947, and as I walked into the hangar at Muroc Army Air Base in the California high desert, the XS-1 team presented me with a big raw carrot, a pair of glasses and a length of rope. The gifts were a whimsical allusion to a disagreement I'd had the previous evening with a horse. The horse won. I broke two ribs. And now, as iridescent fingers of sunlight gripped the eastern mountain rims, we made ready to take a stab at cracking the sound barrier–up until that point aviation's biggest hurdle.

The Bell XS-1 No. 1 streaked past the speed of sound that morning without too much fanfare–broken ribs notwithstanding. And when the Mach indicator stuttered off the scale barely 5 minutes after the drop from our mother B-29, America entered the second great age of aviation development.

We'd fly higher and faster in the XS-1 No. 1 in later months and years. Its sister ships would acquit themselves ably as the newly formed U.S. Air Force continued to "investigate the effects of higher Mach numbers.' And Edwards Air Force Base, formerly known as Muroc Army Air Base, would witness remarkable strides in supersonic and even transatmospheric flight.

profile of bell x 1 supersonic test plane

But with the XS-1, later shortened to X-1, we were flying through uncharted territory, the "ugh-known' as we liked to call it. And as ominous as it seemed to us then, that was the whole point.

America was at war with Germany and Japan in December 1943 when a conference was called at the fledgling National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, NASA's forerunner) in Washington. The subject was how to provide aerospace companies with better information on high-speed flight in order to improve aircraft design. A full-scale, high-speed aircraft was proposed that would help investigate compressability and control problems, powerplant issues and the effects of higher Mach and Reynolds numbers. It was thought that a full-scale airplane with a trained pilot at the controls would yield more accurate data than could be obtained in a wind tunnel. And, following the English experience with early air-breathing jet propulsion, the notion of using a conventional jet powerplant was advanced.

Discussions continued through 1944, but winning the war was first on everyone's agenda. It wasn't until March of 1945, with the war drawing to a close, that the project picked up momentum. Researchers concluded, however, that jet engines of the period weren't powerful enough to achieve the required speeds.

Rocket propulsion was explored–specifically, a turbo-pump-equipped rocket made by Reaction Motors Inc. Delivering 6,000 pounds of thrust, the acid-aniline-fueled engine was believed to be capable of boosting an airplane to the fringes of the known performance envelope. Ultimately, the Reaction Motors turbo pump became stalled in development, so another 4-chamber Reaction Motors engine, this one fueled by liquid oxygen and diluted ethyl alcohol, was slated for installation. A pressure system using nitrogen gas provided a basis for fuel delivery. This fallback meant the X-1 could carry only half the fuel originally anticipated, but at least the project could move ahead.

With an engine in place, Larry Bell of Bell Aircraft Corp. and chief design engineer Robert J. Woods could proceed on the design of the X-1. It was to be unlike any other airplane designed up to that day.

The Germans had experimented with rocket planes in the waning days of the war. The ME-163, with its HWK 509C engine, was credited with a top speed of around 600 mph. (The ME-262, with two jet engines, was clocked at 527 mph.) But the Bell X-1 would be far superior–with a clean, aerodynamic profile that whispered "power" even while dormant on the tarmac.

The nose was shaped like a .50-cal. bullet, and its high-strength-aluminum fuselage stood a mere 10.85 ft. high and 30.9 ft. long. Wingspan was 28 ft. and wing area was 130 sq. ft. 

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You get the idea that designing, maintaining–and particularly flying–these research tools was not without hazard. But despite the risks, the first X-1 flew like a dream. Its smooth, precise flight characteristics defined the plane's personality. I remember pulling three slow rolls on the first unpowered flight in midsummer 1947. And as we embarked on the quest to explore aviation's potential, fear—albeit subsurface—supplied a businesslike edge to the work.

A few pages from German Aviation 1930 - 1945



The 8-346: supersonic research aircraft PF 1 designed by D F S for speeds above 1000 mph (1609 kph).  

This aircraft was to be built by Siebel.   The aluminum semi-monocoque fuselage is of circular cross section and the pilot lies prone in the nose.   Behind him is a pressurized compartment for...




measuring and recording equipment and the tanks for T-S T O F F and C-S T O F F.* 

The bi fuel rocket motors are mounted one above the other at the rear of the fuel supply.  

The all metal wing has a 45 degree swept-back at the one-quarter chord line and the airfoil is of a symmetrical

228-6 High Altitude Reconnaissance Aircraft

8-346 Supersonic Research Aircraft


shape.   Each aileron is divided into two parts, the outer portion having no air dynamic balance and are made with a deep chord to insure effective operation at high Mach numbers.   Outer and inner ailerons can be moved independently or simultaneously.   

The nose, incorporates a pressure cabin that is connected by a system of explosive bolts to the main fuselage and can be blown off in an emergency.  Allowing the pilot and recording equipment the opportunity to escape.  

The fall of the nose section is braked by a parachute which is deployed after separation from the main aircraft.   At the appropriate moment the pilot can be released from the cabin by means of an ejection catapult.  Thus freed to then descend attached to their own parachute.  

It is intended that the 8-346 should be carried aloft by a parent aircraft to an altitude of 33,000 feet (10058 meters).  From this height it would climb under its own power to 66,000 feet (20117 meters), where it would attain a speed of 1250 mph (2012 kph).


Specifications are:  Wingspan = 29 feet (8.99 meters) 6 in., wing area = 215 square feet (19.97 square


meters) and wing swept back angle = 45 degrees at the quarter chord line.


The DFS 228 Pictured in Drawing F1, Was a High Altitude Reconnaissance Aircraft. 


* Ref Wikipedia T-Stoff (80% concentrated hydrogen peroxide / 20% oxyquinoline) was the oxidizer part of a bipropellant rocket fuel combination used in Germany during World War II.  It is a stabilized high test peroxide.  One of its uses was to be combined, as the oxidizer, with C-Stoff (methanol-hydrazine mixture) as the fuel, in the Messerschmitt Me 163 and Messerschmitt Me 263, at a ratio of three parts C-Stoff fuel to one part T-stoff oxidizer.  Because the two substances were so visibly similar, a complex testing system was developed to make sure that each propellant was put into the correct tanks of the Messerschmitt Me 163.  This was because T-Stoff and C-stoff are hypergolic propellants: they spontaneously ignite when mixed.  Even slight contamination between the T-Stoff oxidizer and the C-Stoff fuel was likely to cause an explosion.


T-Stoff was used to drive the turbopump in the German V2 rocket; ammonia-stabilized hydrogen peroxide was decomposed into hot steam and oxygen by adding Z-Stoff (aqueous solution of various...


Left-The 8-346 supersonic research aircraft PDF 1 designed by D F S at Airing for speeds above 1000 mph 

permanganates).  The turbopump was used to transport fuel and oxidizer liquids to the rocket engine of the V2. 

* Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) HTP of ~95% concentration by weight

 Stabilisers: phosphoric acid, sodium phosphate, 8-oxyquinoline

Because of its extreme oxidizing potential, T-stoff was a very dangerous chemical to handle, so special rubberized suits were required when working with it, as it would react with most cloth or other combustible material and cause it to spontaneously combust.

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