Boeing‘s unmanned X-51A WaveRider broke the record for the longest hypersonic flight ever, doing so on its fourth successful jaunt in the sky. The total scramjet power flight time clocked in at 3.5-minutes, with its speed topping out at a neck-breaking Mach 5.1, with the total flight time lasting in excess of 6-minutes. The flight came to an end with a controlled decent into the Pacific Ocean.
Early this morning, Boeing’s X-51A was released at an altitude of 50,000 over Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range, taken to such a height via the USAF’s B-52H Stratofortress. Upon its release, the Boeing craft was propelled by a rocket booster to Mach 4.8, at which point the booster and an interstage were both tossed aside, leaving the scramjet engine to take it to Mach 5.1.
During the flight, the X-51A consumed all of its jet fuel, at which point it dived into the ocean. This was its fourth flight, a test run for the USAF’s Research Laboratory. Before today, the previous hypersonic flight record was established back in 2010. The project is also in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Boeing Phantom Works President Darryl Davis said: “This demonstration of a practical hypersonic scramjet engine is a historic achievement that has been years in the making. This test proves the technology has matured to the point that it opens the door to practical applications, such as advanced defense systems and more cost-effective access to space.”