US military plans another hypersonic X-51A Waverider flight next year

Oct 25, 2012
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US military plans another hypersonic X-51A Waverider flight next year

The US military has been working hard to create an aircraft capable of hypersonic flight. It's hard to wrap your brain around just how fast hypersonic is. The experimental X-51A Waverider is an aircraft designed to reach Mach 6 or 3600 mph.

The military tested the X-51A back in August, and the aircraft failed, plunging into the ocean. In that test flight the aircraft was only able to maintain flight for 15 seconds due to a problem with one of the aircraft control fins. The first test for the X-51A aircraft was in 2010. That flight went according to plan.

The military hasn't decided exactly when the next test flight for the aircraft will be conducted, but program managers are eyeing next spring or summer. Investigations into the aircraft failure during the test flight in August have pointed to a "random vibration issue." Program manager Charlie Brink has said that more work is needed to pinpoint the exact cause of the failure.

During the August test flight, the aircraft was able to reach Mach 4.8 but was unable to activate the scramjet engine designed to push the aircraft to six times the speed of sound. Even after the next test flight for the X-51A, even if that flight should happen to fail, the military is still expected to continue research into hypersonic flight.

[via ABC News]


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