During the summer of 1961, the Air Force ASD and NASA Headquarters proposed a new initiative to use the X-15 to carry scientific experiments that were unforeseen when John Becker conceived the aircraft in 1954. For instance, researchers at the FRC wanted to use the X-15 to carry high – altitude experiments for the proposed Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, while others wanted to carry a hypersonic ramjet for air-breathing propulsion studies. Of particular interest was the ability of the X-15 to carry experiments above the attenuating effects of the atmosphere.-180

On 15 August 1961, the Research Airplane Committee signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to form the X-15 Joint Program Coordinating Committee with Air Force and NASA representatives as cochairmen. The MoU included the following statements:^

1. The X-15 is a program of national importance undertaken in accordance with the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding dated 23 December 1954 among the Department of the Air Force, Department of the Navy, and the NACA (now the NASA). It is recognized that the X-15 flight research program will soon complete the initial phase of flight research.

2. It is necessary that an optimum follow-on research program be formulated to insure maximum benefit to the national objectives accrue from the research program.

3. An X-15 Joint Program Coordinating Committee with the NASA and USAF representatives in the role of co-chairman is hereby assigned the responsibility to formulate the optimum follow-on research program for the X-15. The program will be transmitted to the participating departments through normal channels and will be jointly reviewed by HQ [Headquarters] USAF and the NASA RAPL [Research Airplane Project Leader (Hartley Soule)] prior to submittal to the Research Airplane Committee.

4. The X-15 Joint Program Coordinating Committee is recognized by the Research Airplane Committee as the focal point of the subject project for continuous evaluation and formulation of program objectives for approval of the Research Airplane Committee. The establishment of a Joint Program Coordinating Committee is not intended to change the functions or responsibility of the NASA FRC-AFFTC Flight Test Steering Committee [later called the X-15 Joint Operations Committee].

The initial cochairs of the X-15 Joint Program Coordinating Committee were Lieutenant Colonel E. F. Pezda, chief of the X-15 project office at the ASD, and Paul Bikle from the FRC. The committee held its first meeting on 23-25 August 1961, during which the scientific community suggested over 40 experiments as suitable candidates. Hartley Soule and John Stack proposed separating the experiments into four groups.-182!

• Group I consisted of desirable experiments that did not require special aircraft modifications or special flight profiles. It was also initially limited to experiments that could be prepared within three to four months of approval.

• Group II consisted of experiments that required "appreciable aircraft modifications" or a relatively long lead time for preparation.

• Group III was a holding area for experiments that were not well defined.

• Group IV included experiments that supported other programs (such as the Dyna-Soar or Apollo).

By November 1961, a long list of possible experiments had been divided among the first three groups; the fourth group was not populated pending coordination with other programs. The X-15 Joint Program Coordinating Committee met four more times (9 May 1962, 7-8 January 1963, 18 September 1963, and 16 October 1963), and initially forwarded proposals for 28 experiments to the Research Airplane Committee for approval. The committee subsequently approved at least three other proposals for implementation, and it appears that several others were assigned experiment numbers; however, the nature or purpose of some of them is unknown.-183!