Moog Celebrates 67th Anniversary of Bell X-1 Breaking the Sound Barrier

14 October 2014

Moog Inc. (NYSE: MOG.A and MOG.B) Space and Defense Group is celebrating the 67th anniversary of Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager breaking the Sound Barrier in a Bell X-1. The X-1 was built at the Bell Aircraft Wheatfield production facility located at the eastern end of the now Niagara Falls International Airport. This facility went on to produce rocket engines beginning in the 1950’s and still currently produces propulsion systems and spacecraft rocket engines as part of Moog’s In-Space Propulsion (ISP) division.

Captain Yeager piloted the X-1 #46-062, nicknamed Glamorous Glennis after his wife, to Mach 1.06 or 807.2 miles per hour at 45,000 feet. Today commercial aircraft fly near this altitude but under 600 miles per hour (typically Mach 0.85) and are designed to intentionally stay below the speed of sound (Mach 1.0) referred to as “The Demon” by early flight test pilots. Glamorous Glennis is currently located in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. This flight was a key step towards the US manned space program. 


        Bell X-1 #46-062 During 1st Supersonic Flight (courtesy of NASA)

                                Captain Yeager in Bell X-1
                             Captain Yeager in the Bell X-1 prior to flight

                  Bell X-1 Before being loaded onto Carrier
            Bell X-1 before being loaded on the B-29 Carrier Vehicle

The Bell X-1 went on to have multiple design iterations with the X-1A through X-1E. Subsequent “X Planes” would go even faster and higher and require new ways of controlling the aircraft as they pushed the edges of the atmosphere. Bell designed and built a series of rocket engines that would use Hydrogen Peroxide as part of the Reaction Control System (RCS) used on the Bell X-1B and Bell X-2. Similar engines were used on the X-15 which still holds the record for the highest speed of a manned aircraft 4,520 miles per hour.

            Bell X-2
                                   Bell X-2 (courtesy of NASA)

                      North American Aviation X-15
                   North American Aviation X-15 (courtesy of NASA)

The same Hydrogen Peroxide engine technology was used on the Mercury capsule Reaction Control System. Alan Shepherd was the first American in space and John Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth. Both did this in a Mercury capsule using Bell rocket engines to steer the craft. The same type of engines were used in the X-20 Dyna-Soar concept (early predecessor for the Space Shuttle) and Centaur upper stage used to launch military satellites into space. Bell also built the main engine for the competing Agena upper stage. These types of engines were used in the Bell Rocket Belt designed for the US Army and the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV) used to train the Apollo astronauts.

                Lunar Landing Training Vehicle
                      Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (courtesy of NASA)

Moog-ISP continues to make space propulsion hardware to support the commercial, civil, and military space programs including the next generation manned spaceflight platforms.

Moog Inc. is a worldwide designer, manufacturer, and integrator of precision control components and systems. Moog’s high-performance systems control military and commercial aircraft, satellites and space vehicles, launch vehicles, missiles, automated industrial machinery, wind energy, marine and medical equipment. Additional information about the company can be found at www.moog.com. Additional information about Moog’s Space Sector can be found at www.moog.com/space.