X-51A Waverider New Hypersonic Speed World Record

A historic flight took place on May 26, in the skies off the southern California Pacific coast. For the first time in history, a hypersonic flight test vehicle managed to travel for over 200 seconds at Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, shattering the previous 12 seconds run set by a NASA X-43 vehicle. The feat is compared by those who created the vehicle to the leap from propeller to jet engine.

The name of the vehicle which set the record is X-51A Waverider and is powered by a Pratt & Whitney air breathing scramjet engine. The unit uses a mix of ethylene and JP-7 jet fuel in the first burn phase, switching afterwards to JP-7 jet fuel alone (Waverider became the first use of a practical hydrocarbon fueled scramjet in flight).

The vehicle, launched from under the left wing of an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 Stratofortress at 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, reached an altitude of 70,000 feet and the aforementioned Mach 5 speed. It kept the speed for 200 seconds, after which the test flight was considered terminated.

"We are ecstatic to have accomplished most of our test points on the X-51A's very first hypersonic mission," Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base said in a statement. "We equate this leap in engine technology as equivalent to the post-World War
Two jump from propeller-driven aircraft to jet engines."

According to USAF, four X-51A cruisers have been built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Boeing. More record breaking attempts are scheduled for the near future, with further tests scheduled for this fall.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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