Air Force aircraft goes hypersonic
LOS ANGELES — An experimental, unmanned aircraft developed for the Air Force went hypersonic during a test off the Southern California coast, traveling at more than 3,000 mph, the Air Force said Friday.
The X-51A WaveRider flew for more than three minutes under power from its exotic scramjet engine and hit a speed of Mach 5.1, or more than five times the speed of sound.
The test on Wednesday marked the fourth and final flight of an X-51A by the Air Force, which has spent $300 million studying scramjet technology that it hopes can be used to deliver strikes around the globe within minutes.
The previous three flights ended in failure or didn't reach the intended speed.
Though the WaveRider was designed to reach Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound, program officials were satisfied with its performance in the latest test.
“It was a full mission success,” program manager Charlie Brink of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base said in a statement.
The sleek, missile-shaped WaveRider was released from a B-52 bomber 50,000 feet above the Pacific and was initially accelerated by a rocket before the scramjet kicked in.
It reached Mach 4.8 in less than half a minute powered by a solid rocket booster. After separating from the booster, the scramjet engine was ignited, accelerating the aircraft to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet.
The flight ended with a planned plunge into the ocean.
The WaveRider traveled more than 230 miles in six minutes, making it the longest hypersonic flight of its kind. Engineers gathered data before it splashed down.
Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, which built the WaveRider, called the test “a historic achievement that has been years in the making.”
“This test proves the technology has matured to the point that it opens the door to practical applications,” Davis said in a statement.
While the Air Force did not have immediate plans for a successor to the X-51A, it said it will continue hypersonic flight research.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Arizona county clears girl shooter in gun range death
- AFL-CIO’s Trumka urges action to push the political left to polls
- Military pilot was killed in Va. crash
- Prison term for Detroit porch gunman debated
- Obama rules out military response
- U.S. waffling on ISIS feeds confusion among possible allies
- Death Valley ‘sailing rocks’ linked to freeze-warm cycle
- Ferguson sued over police actions amid riots
- Study examines body’s bacteria on move indoors
- Judge reaffirms Texas’ ‘Robin Hood’ system of school funding unconstitutional
- Obama backs off immigration vow