Extremely rare infrared horizon scanner for a North American X-15 hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft, measuring 6.75″ x 8.75″ x 6.75″ and weighing approximately 16 pounds, with original annotated parts tag reading: “X-15 Scanner, I.D. No. 13188, Condition S, Report No. L-6-76, Item No. ½,,” with reverse marked: 53030010, ½.” Upper section of amplifier features male and female plug ports and a relative gain switch, and the frame side bears an affixed “Scanner No. 1” label. Lower section features an Hysteresis AC motor with Globe Industries, Inc. parts label (numbers faded and difficult to decipher). The scanner retains the original paraboloidal mirror, but the upper scan mirror is no longer present. In very good to fine condition.
During its 199 flights, the X-15 spearheaded research in a variety of areas: hypersonic aerodynamics, winged reentry from space, life-support systems for spacecraft, aerodynamic heating and heat transfer research, and earth sciences experiments. One such experiment involved an infrared horizon scanner, which was purportedly installed at the rear of the X-15 in the vertical stabilizer, and provided critical data during the infancy of space navigation and guidance. Accurately tracking the earth's horizon is critical for spacecraft guidance and the scanner helped measure background infrared radiation in order to better develop spacecraft guidance systems. The information was used in attitude referencing systems for orbiting spacecraft, specifically by MIT as part of an Apollo support program seeking alternative means for earth's orbit reinsertion guidance in case of radar or communications failure.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.