Boeing X-51A Waverider Scramjet Set to Fly


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May 10, 2010
Boeing X-51A Waverider Scramjet Set to Fly
Posted by Armed Forces International's Aviation Expert on 25/05/2010 - 11:20:00
The Boeing X-51A Waverider's first flight is expected shortly

A new US military hypersonic technology platform is set to take to the skies on 25 May 2010. Defence and aerospace firm Boeing's X-51A Waverider is a pilotless scramjet – a supersonic ramjet capable of attaining speeds in excess of Mach 7.

The X-51A's roots lie in earlier hypersonic US military designs such as the Advanced Rapid Response Missile Demonstrator, and it gained its alpha-numeric designation in 2005.

Previously, it's been carried into the air under the wing of a USAF B-52 Stratofortress four-engined strategic bomber, but not released. Today, it's expected to be released approximately 50,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, and while it probably won't reach Mach 7 initially, it will likely attain speeds near the upper edge of its capabilities.
X-51A Waverider First Flight

The X-51A' Waverider's first flight is scheduled to last for only around five minutes but – during this time – it will reach approximately 70,000 feet and key flight data will be sent to analysts on the ground. At the end of the flight, the scramjet will touch down in the Pacific.

The Waverider features a long, thin fuselage and tiny winglets. This design allows it to effectively ride the shockwave it produces with minimal drag and – at the height it will be operating at – to blend atmospheric air with jet fuel.
Boeing X-51A: Hypersonic Aircraft

The Boeing X-51A is a joint venture between Boeing Phantom Works (the firm's principal research and development division) and Pratt and Whitney: an engine manufacturer whose products feature in multiple different military and civilian aircraft designs. Funding for the hypersonic aircraft project comes from a combination of the USAF, NASA and Darpa (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

Limited data has emerged on this unmanned technology demonstrator, but according to Global Security, it is 26 feet in length and weighs in the region of 4,000 pounds.

Hypersonic speeds of the kind that the Boeing Waverider is expected to attain are defined as those that surpass Mach 5.

According to the USAF, the X-51A project could act as the gateway to future hypersonic weapons programmes.


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