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  • "Black Betsy": The 6000C-4 rocket engine, 1945-1989, Part I

    Paper ID



    • Frank H. Winter





    The world's first supersonic manned flight in the Bell X-l piloted by U.S. Air Force Captain Charles E. Yeager on October 14, 1947 was one of the great events in aviation history. This and subsequent early supersonic flights are justifiably well documented. Yet surprisingly, little has been written on the rocket powerplanrs of these historic planes which made their milestone flights possible. This paper attempts to correct the gap. It also shows that the same Bell X-l powerplant, designated the 6000C-4 and more popularly called "Black Betsy," experienced a remarkable career- spanning 45 years in which it powered a dozen other X-aircraft. An uprated version also served as the engine for the MX-774 test missile, a precursor of the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and a pair of the standard 6000C-4 units was the interim engine for the North American X-15, prior to the full development of that aircraft's XLR-99 powerplant. By the 1970s, "Betsy" was likewise used in various Lifting Bodies which played a significant role in the development of the Space Shuttle, while presently, the same engine is being adapted to a private project for powering a rocket-propelled sled designed to break the U.S. land speed record.