The North American X-15 rocketplane flew at up to Mach 7 and at very high altitudes, it was also capable of spaceflight but these were quite steep parabolic patterns. At Mach 7 it flew leveled and my question is whether the X-15 ever landed on another airport than the one it launched from (attached to its B-52 carrier plane so actually the airport where the B-52 launched from). Wikipedia seems to be silent on this.

  • $\begingroup$ The X-15 landed on one of many dry lake beds near Edwards AFB, it never landed back at Edwards. $\endgroup$ – GdD Sep 22 '20 at 11:16
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD It didn't land on a runway ever? $\endgroup$ – Giovanni Sep 22 '20 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ It landed on skids @Giovanni, it was designed to land on dry lakebeds, not on paved runways. $\endgroup$ – GdD Sep 22 '20 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD The SpaceShipOne and Two land on skids too, but on runways. :-) $\endgroup$ – Giovanni Sep 22 '20 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Giovanni: SSO and SST have nose skids but main wheels. Almost all of the weight of an airplane is on the mains, and the nose is kept up in the air quite a bit longer than the mains. The X-15 was the other way around: main skids and small nose wheels. $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Sep 22 '20 at 17:08

my question is whether the X-15 ever landed on another airport than the one it launched from

That depends on what you mean by "landed", "airport", and "another".

On its free flights, it never landed on another airport than the one it started from. However, it also never landed at the airport it started from. In fact, it didn't land at an airport at all.

It always landed on a dry lakebed near the airport. Whether you consider them part of the airport or not, is a matter of definition. As is the question whether you consider a dry lakebed an airport. I believe that the lakebeds were prepared with temporary runway markings, and they also may have cleared the "runway" from rocks and debris.

However, on aborted flights or captive carry flights, when it was never released from the carrier aircraft, it obviously landed attached to the carrier aircraft back at Edwards AFB.

  • $\begingroup$ Why didn't it land on runways? Were they simply too short for the X-15 to decelerate in time? $\endgroup$ – Giovanni Sep 22 '20 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know, to be honest. Some theories: It landed on skids, probably because of weight reasons. Skids and asphalt don't mix well. Also, a lakebed is easier to hit than a runway. The Space Shuttle, for example, also landed both on the runway at Edwards AFB as well as Rogers Dry Lake. $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Sep 22 '20 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ The X-15 on this photo has a gear, not a skid. Did that depend on the X-15's version? commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:X15A2_with_tanks.jpg $\endgroup$ – Giovanni Sep 22 '20 at 13:16
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    $\begingroup$ X-15A-2 was heavily damaged in a crash, and rebuilt with significant modifications, including the tanks and a lengthened fuselage. I can't find anything about changing the rear skids to wheels, though. Those look a bit flimsy, they might be transport wheels for moving it around on the ground. $\endgroup$ – Jörg W Mittag Sep 22 '20 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ According to Aerofax Datagraph 2 North American X-15 p.11 that is indeed a dolly used for moving the vehicle on the ground. Note that in the picture asked about in the comment, the lower half of the ventral fin is not installed. Good picture on page 52. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Sep 22 '20 at 19:09

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