Hypersonic Scramjet Sets New Speed Record

More than Mach 5 – not bad! CNET reports on the U.S. Air Force’s latest toy:

The X-51A Waverider flew today, and it flew fast.

The scramjet engine in the experimental aircraft burned for a little over three minutes at around 10 a.m. PDT Wednesday in a test range over the Pacific Ocean, pushing the X-51A to the hypersonic speed of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. That was the top speed reached by the aircraft in its brief flight, according to Boeing and press reports citing U.S. Air Force officials. (Editors’ note: A separate Air Force News Service report had initially cited a higher speed, but was amended to give the Mach 5 figure.)

The 200 seconds of autonomous flight by the U.S. Air Force’s X-51A set a duration record for an aircraft powered by a scramjet (short for “supersonic combustion ramjet”) engine, though in part that can be chalked up to the rarity of any flights at all at this extreme level. The previous record was set by NASA’s X-43A, whose scramjet engine burned for only about 10 to 12 seconds in November 2004; that aircraft zoomed to Mach 9.8…

[continues at CNET]


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