X-51A Waverider
August 13, 2012

Boeing X-51A Hypersonic Plane Undergoing New Test Tomorrow

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The next generation of flight is undergoing a test tomorrow over the Pacific Ocean, paving the way for non-stop Paris trips in just a few hours in the future.

The X-51A WaveRider is being prepared at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. This aircraft could take you from New York to London in less than an hour.

The experimental aircraft uses a "scramjet" engine that allows it to travel at hypersonic speeds, reaching Mach 4.5 speeds.

Tomorrow, the X-51A WaveRider will be hitching a ride aboard a B52 bomber from Edwards, and will be released and driven about 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean near Point Mugu.

Once the aircraft is dropped, the engines will fire up, and the test will ensue. Lasting just 300 seconds, this will actually be the longest the aircraft has ever flown.

Globalsecurity.org estimates that the WaveRider program costs about $140 million. The program has had previous tests aborted after the engine stalled.

In the latest test, the craft will be free falling for four-seconds over the ocean until its booster rocket engines fire up and propel it to about Mach 4.5.

The WaveRider's scramjet engine will then ignite, helping the aircraft to accelerate to about Mach 6, climbing nearly 70,000 feet.

After about 300 seconds in to flight, the WaveRider will break up after splashing into the Pacific, which would be considered going according to plan.

Traveling at five times the speed of sound, for now, is just a pipe dream. These tests are just one way of paving the way until we reach a day of supersonic international air travel, making the trip from Tokyo to Los Angeles seem that much faster.