Print 13 comment(s) - last by maugrimtr.. on May 8 at 10:50 AM

It also achieved Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet

The X-51A Waverider completed the final flight of its test program last week, which proved to be the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever. 

The X-51A Waverider is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic flight testing. Boeing developed the X-51 Waverider, and its first flight took place May 26, 2010. The idea of the program was to prove the viability of air-breathing, high-speed scramjet propulsion. 

May 1 marked the fourth and final test flight of the X-51A Waverider. It took off from the Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, California a little after 10 a.m. It was coupled with the B-52H Stratofortress, and released at 50,000 feet.

The X-51A Waverider reached Mach 4.8 in 26 seconds while powered by a rocket booster, but after separation from the booster, it achieved Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet. 

Once the fuel supply was gone, the X-51A Waverider splashed into the Pacific Ocean. During its test flight, it traveled over 230 nautical miles in just over six minutes and collected 370 seconds of data.

"It was a full mission success," said Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate. "I believe all we have learned from the X-51A Waverider will serve as the bedrock for future hypersonics research and ultimately the practical application of hypersonic flight."

Source: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

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By Amiga500 on 5/6/2013 3:05:12 PM , Rating: 3
Skylon takes off from a runway, flies from ground to space, using aerodynamic lift where it is most efficient to do so and with not requiring air for the ultra-high altitude portion of flight - it is a single vehicle to orbit. By removing the need for carrying oxidiser till ~25km altitude, a serious amount of vehicle weight is saved.

In contrast, the SCRAMjet needs:
- a dedicated lift vehicle to altitude.
- a dedicated booster to get to high supersonic speed (or the dual-mode ram/scram noted below).
- a dedicated rocket motor to elevate payload to full orbit [21km is far short of 300km!].

Furthermore, a SCRAMjet by its nature needs air - therefore it is operating in an environment where drag is still an issue. It is always at a disadvantage to SABRE at very high speeds, as SABRE can elevate above air and hence into very low drag.

While there are dual mode ram/scramjets on test benches (such as facet), I have yet to see anything with a turbo/ram/scram motor beyond concept papers.

By geckor7 on 5/6/2013 11:47:44 PM , Rating: 2
@ Amiga500, what you contrast as necessary prerequisites for SCRAMJET use aligns quite nicely for a hypersonic cruise missile application to satisfy DoD's directive of prompt global strike ability with conventional weapons in as little as 1 hour. Maybe some learnings trickle into research for civilian applications years down the road, but x-51 has validated research and provided a viable path for a HSCM program.

By Amiga500 on 5/7/2013 6:22:46 AM , Rating: 2
True. I was thinking more useful things than missiles :-)

But then, using something akin to Skylon to place a load of tungsten bolts in orbit means they will re-enter with extremely high Vmax, and with less time spent in hostile
"air-space"... and won't be delicate enough to be destroyed
at the first hint of SAM shrapnel.

DARPA/DoD have looked at orbiting tungsten rods for quickStrike before. Nothing ever came of it... possibly out of fear of "weaponising space", which would be pushing on a few treaties.

By maugrimtr on 5/8/2013 10:50:58 AM , Rating: 2
I can understand why. At low Earth orbit, any weapon would be zipping along above Europe, Russia, and Asia. You can imagine their reaction - it would be the same as ours!

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini
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