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Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

Posted May 06, 2013 9:11 AM

From Engadget RSS Feed:

With the third X-51A WaveRider failing to reach hypersonic speed due to a fin failure last August, it seemed the United States Air Force would possibly forgo the fourth (and final) run. On the morning of May 1st, however, that last X-51A got its chance to soar, successfully reaching Mach 5.1 during a record 370-second flight. According to the Wright Patterson Air Force base, the aircraft's rocket booster helped it hit Mach 4.8 about 26 seconds after being released from a B-2H at 50K feet, at which point its air-fed scramjet brought it to 60,000 feet while achieving hypersonic flight. The USAF notes that "it was the longest of the four X-51A test flights [230 nautical miles] and the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight" -- surely taking some of the sting out of the $300 million program's previous shortcomings. Past flights aimed to hit Mach six, with the first and second tests only sustaining Mach five. The aircraft made destructive splashdown landing into the Pacific "as planned," but data from the whole flight was recorded. The USAF isn't planning a followup to the X-51A anytime soon, though the program will likely serve as a reference for future designs.

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#1

Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/06/2013 12:51 PM

What can this possibly be used for???

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/06/2013 6:00 PM

Apart from weapons, conceivably passenger aircraft.

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#3
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Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/07/2013 12:38 AM

1. To catch up with/intercept and destroy a slower weapon before that slower weapon can destroy you!

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#4
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Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/07/2013 10:12 AM

As a small(er), fast(er) replacement for the SR-71 Intel bird, but with the added advantage of no pilot, so that in the event it does get seen/damaged by an attack, it can be destroyed in place (that is, mid-air) and thus rendered non-useful to anyone hoping to either parade it to the world as a sign of US Aggression, or for the purpose of deconstructing it for technology theft.

Add in the advantage a low(er) level (than satellite orbits) track such a platform brings, with its ability to change tracks rapidly, moving to a new "viewing area" to meet demand, and the ability even in the smaller platform with lighter weight payload to render better resolution (less cloud cover, and other obscurants to look through), as well as the fact it is reusable (unlike the low-orbit polar track satellites we still use) and you have a crowd-beater for the intel role.

OR, if you prefer the pure research role, the data from this platform will help to plan for and ameliorate many potential problems with still future designs.

Finally, if that was a rhetorical question, it would make a cool paperweight. For BIG sheets of paper.

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#5
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Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/07/2013 1:24 PM

To move Passengers for isolated Indian Casino's, of course.

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#7
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Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/08/2013 1:31 PM

I think the other four answers to your question are overly optimistic.

.

Achieving the planned 'destructive splashdown landing' at some high speed (albeit well below mach 5) suggests to me that the probability of recovering the pieces much less reassembling the vehicle has very little chance of success.

.

Far more likely is that it will be, and probably already is being, used as shelter. x-51A is dispersed reef.

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#6

Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/07/2013 9:24 PM

What we have here is proof of who has an imagination and who does not.

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#8

Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/08/2013 4:25 PM

Visualize a very, Very, VERY fast Cruise Missile's function: when you need to put "bombs-on-target" in a hurry, while the "...intel..." is still fresh, hot, and VALID and before the "target" can move or get away!

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#9
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Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/09/2013 7:08 AM

'.... "bombs-on-target" in a hurry, while the "...intel..." is still fresh, hot, and VALID and before the "target" can move or get away!...'

.

....and before anyone can question the accuracy of the intel, or the wisdom of the reaction.

.

Half kidding really. Speed in warfare can be a huge advantage, it just seems the definition of what might reasonably be considered 'war' has expanded a lot recently and doesn't show signs of slowing the expansion.

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#10
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Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/09/2013 8:40 AM

Not so much the delivery, it's fast becoming accurate Intelligence of being the key.

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#11

Re: Final X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic Mission Achieves Mach 5.1, Record Flight Length

05/09/2013 1:45 PM

Rapid reactionary force...

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