Originally designated as the XS-1, the Bell X-1 is historically important as the first aircraft to break the sound barrier. It was a supersonic research project sponsored by the US Air Force. The X-1’s first flight occurred in January 1946, including test flights done in California at Muroc Army Air Field, now known as Edwards Air Force Base. This aircraft became the first to fly faster than the speed of sound with a historical speed of 1,127 kilometers (700 miles) per hours (Mach 1.06).
Captain Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager, a pilot with the US Air Force, reached these record speeds at an altitude of 13,000 meters (43,000 feet). Named after the Captain’s wife, the supersonic “Glamorous Glennis” aircraft was the talk of the decade. However, all that talk and glamour did not end during that time-it was only the beginning. The National Air and Space Museum, located in Washington D.C., is heading a new project to commemorate Captain Yeager’s Bell X-1.
The museum is heading the Smithsonian’s 3D printing project, which constructed a way to build a scale model of the X-1 using a 3D printer. Through cutting edge technology, anyone can print these models from the comfort of their own homes. Shaped like a 0.50-caliber bullet, the model will take the form of the X-1 aircraft, which was a single-engine, single-seat, mid-wing rocket plane. Colored bright orange, the aluminum aircraft is currently displayed in the museum as part of the Boeing Milestone of Flight Hall exhibition. Bell Aircraft Corporation, a leading manufacturer of aerospace parts, was the brains and muscles behind the aircraft’s design.
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