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How Does The X-51A WaveRider Take Advantage Of The “Scramjet” Technology..?

X-51A WaveRider last successful flight gives a new meaning in the history of aeronautics, by promising that “sky is not the limit” in developing designs which can successfully fly at hypersonic conditions:

THE BOEING COMPANY : Boeing X-51A WaveRider Sets Record with … – 4-traders (press release)

Boeing X-51A WaveRider unmanned hypersonic vehicle achieved the longest air-breathing, scramjet-powered hypersonic flight in history May 1, flying for three and a half minutes on scramjet power at a top speed of Mach 5.1. The vehicle flew for a total time of more than six minutes. “This demonstration of a practical hypersonic scramjet engine is a historic achievement that has been years in the making,” said Darryl Davis, president, Boeing Phantom Works. “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.” A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress from Edwards Air Force Base released the X-51A from 50,000 feet above the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range at 10:55 a.m. Pacific time. After the B-52 released the X-51A, a solid rocket booster accelerated the vehicle to about Mach 4.8 before the booster and a connecting interstage were jettisoned. The vehicle reached Mach 5.1 powered by its supersonic combustion scramjet engine, which burned all its JP-7 jet fuel. The X-51A made a controlled dive into the Pacific Ocean at the conclusion of its mission. The test fulfilled all mission objectives.

X 51A WaveRider 1

The main point of interest for USAF is the development of future hypersonic ‘scramjet’  technology:

X-51A WaveRider Does Mach 5.1 – That’s ~5X Speed Of Sound – CrazyEngineers

USAF has spent about $300 million studying a new technology, called ‘scramjet’ – which can be used to strike any location on the globe within just a few minutes. The top speed of the airplane is designed to be Mach 6; but the officials seem to be satisfied by the speed it’s attained during tests. Program manager, Charlie Brink says that it was a full mission success.  The X-51A WaveRider was released from B-52 bomber at an altitude of about 50k feet above the sea level and was accelerated by a rocket before the scramjet rocked in. Within half a minute after being powered by the rocket booster, the aircraft reached Mach 4.8 and when the scramjet kicked in, the aircraft acceleratXed to Mac 5.1 at an altitude of 60k feet. The flight was plunged into ocean, as planned.  During its test flight, the X-51A WaveRider covered 230 miles in just 6 minutes which made it the longest hypersonic flight of its kind. Darryl Davis of Boeing Phantom Works called it historic achievement.

The X-51A WaveRider was released at an attitude of 50,000 ft by a  USAF’s B-52H Stratofortress:

Boeing X-51A WaveRider achieves longest hypersonic flight ever – SlashGear

Early on May 1st 2013, 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.”

X-51A Waverider Achieves Hypersonic Flight Goal On Final Flight – Aviation Week

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Boeing X-51A Waverider demonstrator successfully achieved sustained, scramjet-powered, air-breathing hypersonic flight above Mach 5 in its final test flight on May 1. Although the Air Force is not yet commenting on details of the flight, the X-51A is thought to have experienced positive acceleration to speeds in excess of Mach 5 and run for the full duration of the planned powered phase of the test. Based on targets established for the previous test attempt, this could have been as long as 300 sec., followed by an unpowered gliding descent of around 500 sec. prior to impacting the sea in the Pacific Test range west of California. If these times and speeds are confirmed, they will represent new records for sustained, air-breathing hypersonic flight. The X-51A is intended to prove the viability of a free-flying, scramjet-powered vehicle and is considered an essential building block toward the long-anticipated development of hypersonic weapons and other high-speed platforms. However, despite the partial success of the first flight, which reached Mach 4.88 under scramjet power in May 2010, that mission ended prematurely after a malfunction, as did the second flight in March 2011 and third in August 2012. Coming in the wake of these disappointing prior tests, the success of the May 1 flight could therefore be pivotal in helping drive further research and development to meet the Air Force’s long-term goal of hypersonic capability. The test involved the last of the four vehicles to be built by Boeing and configured with a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne SJX61 dual-mode ramjet/scramjet engine, and incorporated improvements and lessons learned from the three former flights.

Finally, it is becoming clear that the X-51A is writing real aviation history, by expanding the existing flight limits at the new heights of the hypersonic flight: An open horizon for WaveRider



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