X-51A Wa­verider sets record with suc­cess­ful fourth flight


ABoe­ing X-51A Wa­veRider un­manned hy­per­sonic ve­hi­cle achieved the long­est air-breath­ing, scram­jet-pow­ered hy­per­sonic flight in his­tory on May 1, fly­ing for three-and-a-half min­utes on scram­jet power at a top speed of Mach 5.1. The ve­hi­cle flew for a to­tal time of more than six min­utes.

“This demon­stra­tion of a prac­ti­cal hy­per­sonic scram­jet engine is a his­toric achieve­ment that has been years in the mak­ing,” said Dar­ryl Davis, Pres­i­dent, Boe­ing Phan­tom Works. “This test proves the tech­nol­ogy has ma­tured to the point that it opens the door to prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions, such as ad­vanced de­fece sys­tems and more cost-ef­fec­tive ac­cess to space.”

A US Air Force B-52H Strato­fortress from Edwards Air Force Base re­leased the X-51A from 50,000 feet above the Point Mugu Naval Air War­fare Cen­ter Sea Range at 10:55 a.m. Af­ter the B-52 re­leased the X-51A, a solid rocket booster ac­cel­er­ated the ve­hi­cle to about Mach 4.8 be­fore the booster and a con­nect­ing in­ter­stage were jet­ti­soned. The ve­hi­cle reached Mach 5.1 pow­ered by its su­per­sonic com­bus­tion scram­jet engine, which burned all its JP-7 jet fuel. The X-51A made a con­trolled dive into the Pa­cific Ocean at the con­clu­sion of its mis­sion. The test ful­filled all mis­sion ob­jec­tives.

The flight was the fourth X-51A test flight com­pleted for the US Air Force Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory. It ex­ceeded the pre­vi­ous record set by the pro­gramme in 2010.

The X-51A pro­gramme is a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort of the Air Force Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory and the De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency, with in­dus­try part­ners Boe­ing and Pratt & Whit­ney Rock­et­dyne.

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