Success! X-51A Makes Historic Hypersonic Flight

X-51A mated to B-52 for fit test

WARBIRD RADIO – Air Force officials announcing this Wednesday that the X-51A successfully made the longest, supersonic, combustion, ramjet-powered hypersonic flight off the southern coast of California.  According to a news release the flight was propelled by a 200 second burn of the X-51’s Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne-built air breathing scramjet engine.  The previous longest scramjet burn in a flight test was 12 seconds in a NASA X-43.

The X-51 launched about 10am from Edwards Air Force Base under the wing of a B-52. It was released at 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean.  Four seconds later an Army Tactical Missile accelerated the X-51 to about Mach 4.8.  After the X-51 was separated from the missile, the scramjet engine was ignited and history was made.

The Waverider shot up to 70,000 feet and to a peak speed of Mach 6.  Onboard sensors transmitted data to an airborne U.S. Navy P-3, as well as a ground system at Point Mugu.  After about 200 seconds of engine operation a vehicle anomaly occurred and the flight was terminated.  Officials say engineers are working to examine the data and identify the cause of the problem.

Despite the issues, program manager Charlie Brink says, “we are ecstatic to have accomplished most of our test points on the X-51A”.  Air Force officials went on to say the first of four planned flights was an “unqualified success”.  Warbird Radio will continue to follow the story and post more news when it becomes available.


One Response to “Success! X-51A Makes Historic Hypersonic Flight”
  1. Tim Johnson says:

    This is great news! I hope this gets out of the model stages soon. With the Space Shuttle being moth balled, there is nothing right after to replace it, reverting back to rockets. Taking us a step back, instead of forward.

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