Tucked under the B-52H’s port wing, the X-51A is pictured prior to launch on May 1
The U.S. Air Force has released new details of the record-breaking hypersonic test flight conducted by the Boeing-built X-51A Waverider demonstrator on May 1. The diminutive scramjet-powered vehicle achieved a blistering Mach 5.1, covering 230 naut. miles in just over six minutes (240 seconds!) over the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range in the Pacific.
This technology could be the next breakthrough for space booster technology…next as in ten to twenty years. In the meantime it could fuel a new arms race in rapid strike weapons. This is not a US first move, the Russians, Australians, the Europeans, maybe even the Chinese have been leading in this speed regime up to this point.
An artist’s concept shows Lockheed Martin’s low-boom supersonic airliner. (Courtesy: NASA)
Science and resultant technology may well have made Low Boom supersonic flight practical. A 100 to 150 passenger aircraft could fly NY to LA in something like 2 hours, making one day two way coast to coast trips a practical comfortable reality for premium passengers. This has been impossible because of the glass breaking, cattle disturbing sonic boom, but now aerodynamics and aircraft technology have shown a road forward.
With the ending of NASA’s last ‘five year plan’ on ultra efficient airliners, money will be available to build a scale but largish (fighter sized I’d guess) x-plane to make test flights provingthe boom mitigating design techniques. This sounds like a great idea, the sort of thing that NASA should be doing, has been doing, quietly, since its founding as NACA all those decades ago.