The X-1 Skycycle
Steam rocket primary thrust plus solid rocket augmentation thrust
This is the X-1 Skycycle running chassis. The shiny round ball is an insulated titanium pressure vessel that is a STEAM ROCKET containing 200 pounds of superheated steam! It develops 1,333 pounds of thrust for a total of 6 seconds. These are not very efficient rockets, but they are relatively safe. Obviously, the fuel is cheap and presents no handling, storage, or shipping problems. It is also non-toxic - you can drink it! Evel, the master showman and salesman even got the Olympia Brewing Company of Tumwater, Washington to be a sponsor for the water!
Even in 1968, we knew that this steam rocket did not contain enough power to carry the machine the entire canyon distance. Extra strap-on solid propellant rockets were planned, just like used for the Space Shuttle, which first flew in 1981. Unlike the Space Shuttle, however, we would not have ignited the solids together with the main liquid rocket at the instant of launch. We planned to wait until the machine cleared the ramp and was airborne. You cannot turn off solid rockets and abort an attempt as you accelerate and then curve up the ramp! With steam, you can! This is similar to aircraft that use JATO solid propellant rockets to take off with extra heavy loads. These JATO rockets are also not ignited until almost at takeoff speed.
The top picture also shows the small pneumatically operated outrigger wheels (in their retracted position) used to stabilize the machine on the ground at low speeds.
This is the finished X-1 Skycycle. You may be able to discern my name on top as designer. Note the Olympia beer logo!
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