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Navy swept-wing modification of Bell P-63 was tested by Langley late in 1947 to determine low-speed stability and stalling characteristics. 32 Test Unit; it was the origin of today’s NASA Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, which grew out of the site of the Muroc operations. The Bell XS-1 was a conservative design. Its rugged structure was planned to take a maximum load of 18 times its normal flight loads, where most fighters were designed for only nine times the normal load. Its powerplant was a proven unit.

Supersonic flight now is no longer unique. Within a few years, airline passengers will be traveling at speeds nearly three times that reached during the first piercing of the sonic range. But in 1947, the attainment of supersonic speed was a history-making culmination of a long research effort that had begun early in the war at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory (now, Langley Research Center). It was also the first step into the future of a new and pioneering age in aviation-the age of supersonic flight.

Hightemperature problems had been singled out as the main barrier to the successful achievement of hypersonic flight, and NACA wanted to break down that barrier. At Wallops Island, Langley was developing and firing multiple-stage rocket vehicles, aimed at higher speeds and altitudes. On August 24, 1956, the division launched successfully a five-stage, solid-propellant rocket vehicle. I t reached a speed of Mach 15, far into the hypersonic region and beginning to touch the Mach numbers that would be encountered in ballistic missile re-entry bodies and in the return of men from space.

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