X-51A has successful flight

If at first, and second, and third, you don’t succeed, keep trying. The goal of the $300 million X-51A program became reality on May 1, 2013 when the test team achieved a record-setting 210 seconds of air-breathing hypersonic flight, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne ramjet. The Boeing X-51A was launched from a B-52H flown by the 419th Flight Test Squadron, 412th Test Wing, Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB.

During this, the X-51A’s fourth and final planned flight, the unmanned WaveRider vehicle was carried beneath the wing of a B-52H and dropped from an altitude of about 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean off southern California. A solid rocket booster fired and propelled the cruiser to scramjet takeover, creating the supersonic environment necessary to operate the engine. The scramjet successfully propelled the cruiser more than 230 nautical miles in approximately six minutes, streaking through the sky from Mach 4.8 to Mach 5.1 while climbing in altitude. The engine ran full duration, depleting all fuel as planned. It was the longest of the four X-51A test flights and the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever. Early indications show the propulsion system accomplished all objectives.


The X-51A Waverider prepares to launch its historic fourth and final flight. The cruiser achieved Mach 5.1 traveling 230 nautical miles in just over six minutes, making this test the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever.
Image Credit: Bobbi Kapka, U.S. Air Force

Launch video:


Here is the video of an earlier launch from B-52H 60-0050, which was your humble blogger’s aircraft when he was on USAF active duty.

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