Experimental Air Force aircraft goes hypersonic

May 03, 2013
Credit: US Air Force

An experimental unmanned aircraft developed for the U.S. Air Force has flown at more than five times the speed of sound in a test off California.

The Air Force said in a statement 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

The WaveRider was released Wednesday from a B-52 bomber 50,000 feet above the Pacific and was initially accelerated by a rocket before the scramjet kicked in. The flight ended with a planned plunge into the ocean.

It was the fourth and final flight of an X-51A by the Air Force, which is studying ways to deliver strikes around the globe within minutes. Previous ended in failure or didn't reach the intended speed.

Explore further: New gadget helps the vision-impaired to read graphs

4.8 /5 (27 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Experimental Scramjet aircraft set for test flight

Mar 23, 2011

The X-51A Waverider hypersonic scramjet project is set for its second test flight today, and the U.S. Air Force hopes it will demonstrate technology that can eventually be used for more efficient transport ...

Image: X-51A Makes Longest Scramjet Flight

Jun 03, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The X-51A successfully made the longest supersonic combustion ramjet-powered hypersonic flight to date off the southern California coast on May 26. It was powered by a SJX61-2 that was first ...

Recommended for you

Printing the metals of the future

20 hours ago

3-D printers can create all kinds of things, from eyeglasses to implantable medical devices, straight from a computer model and without the need for molds. But for making spacecraft, engineers sometimes need ...

3D printing helps designers build a better brick

23 hours ago

Using 3-D printing and advanced geometry, a team at Cornell has developed a new kind of building material – interlocking ceramic bricks that are lightweight, need no mortar and make efficient use of materials.

User comments : 14

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

EyeNStein
1.8 / 5 (10) May 03, 2013
Congratulations you just made a hypersonic air launched cruise missile.
The Singularity
1 / 5 (6) May 03, 2013
By the time you've got the B52 out the hanger then proceeded up to 50,000ft you may as well have launched a conventional missile.
Although mach 5 is bloody fast. Isnt that some kind of record? fastest man made object flown in the atmosphere that wasn't re-entering from space.

edit: nope the X15 still holds that one. 4500mph!
EyeNStein
1.8 / 5 (10) May 03, 2013
I think the point is an ICBM launch would be detected and upset the Russians and Chinese and maybe cause World War 3. But this "missile" is an "unmanned aircraft" :Fine distinction there guys.
VendicarE
3 / 5 (10) May 03, 2013
Isn't all this money that Americans are spending in their plans to commit further acts of mass murder, better spent elsewhere?
Egleton
1.4 / 5 (9) May 04, 2013
Escape velocity is Mach 34. Keep trying boys.
DirtySquirties
1.2 / 5 (9) May 04, 2013
Sweet. Would be cool if the tech trickles down to commercial flight somehow. Hopefully within the next 50-60 years or so before I die.
StarGazer2011
2 / 5 (8) May 04, 2013
nice work
The Singularity
1 / 5 (6) May 04, 2013
So they are busy wasting millions of your tax dollars creating something that is slower than what they built 50 years ago??. I could save your military A LOT of money.
oh & whats 15 backwards, ........ 51. ahum.
Sanescience
1.5 / 5 (6) May 04, 2013
Isn't all this money that Americans are spending in their plans to commit further acts of mass murder, better spent elsewhere?


It isn't ideal but the world isn't ideal either. Mass murder has been going on since man was tribal in Africa.

I like to wonder what the world would have become if America had stayed out of WWII. Would Hitler have developed atomic weapons and taken over everything and "cleansed" the world of anyone not fair skinned and round eyed and brought "peace" to the world?

Probably not, feudal Japan fought themselves all the time. China continues to this day with decades long cultural cleansing and it has little to do with race. Their great leap forward wiped out 35 million or more.

So probably were in a quiet period right now before the next round of serious mass murder. Maybe we will hit the next power of ten, 100s of millions!
MikPetter
5 / 5 (3) May 05, 2013
Just out of interest
x-15 versus x-51
empty weight 14,600lbs vs 4,000lbs
range 280mi vs 460mi
powered flight time 80sec? vs 240 secs
max speed 6.72 mach vs 5.1 mach
total flights 199 vs 4
mmmm twice the range for 1/3 the weight
Ober
1 / 5 (2) May 05, 2013
Well has anyone heard of an arms race?? Been going on since cave man days. Most life forms do it, it's a driving force of evolution.

If everyone is doing it, then I'd rather live in a country that does it well, and stays infront of any potential enemy. Ohhh and don't forget tech spin offs too.
kochevnik
1.7 / 5 (6) May 05, 2013
Well has anyone heard of an arms race?? Been going on since cave man days. Most life forms do it, it's a driving force of evolution.

If everyone is doing it, then I'd rather live in a country that does it well, and stays infront of any potential enemy. Ohhh and don't forget tech spin offs too.
LOL you think the threat is military, when America is for sale to ANY bidder not only the highest
Tri-ring
5 / 5 (3) May 05, 2013
@MikPetter

Just out of interest
x-15 versus x-51
empty weight 14,600lbs vs 4,000lbs
range 280mi vs 460mi
powered flight time 80sec? vs 240 secs
max speed 6.72 mach vs 5.1 mach
total flights 199 vs 4
mmmm twice the range for 1/3 the weight


Different type of propulsion, X-51 is an air breathe SCRAM jet engine while the X-15 was a rocket engine which carried oxidizer along with it's fuel. The difference in time is that it took more time for the X-51 to accelerate due to difference in engine type.
ToolMan78
1 / 5 (5) May 06, 2013
I would imagine that when this technology is ready they won't be launching them from planes (unless high altitude thin air is required?).