Hypersonic aircraft breaks world record
- 9/11 may have been the result of a similar remote control technology.
Hypersonic aircraft flies at Mach 7
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, March 28: An experimental X-43 pilotless
plane late on Saturday broke the world speed record for an
atmospheric engine, briefly flying at 7,700 kilometres per hour -
seven times the speed of sound, NASA said.
The hypersonic aircraft, a cross between a jet and a rocket, was
dropped from the wing of a modified B-52 bomber, boosted by an
auxiliary rocket to an altitude of nearly 100,000 feet and flew on
its own power for 10 seconds, said the National Aeronautics and Space
After the 10-second test firing of the engine, the X-43A glided
through the atmosphere conducting a series of aerodynamic manoeuvres
for about six minutes before plunging into the Pacific Ocean.
"This is a success, everything worked as planned," said NASA
spokeswoman Leslie William. "For the first time we succeeded in
separating two vehicles flying at Mach 7. The atmospheric engine as
planned for 10 seconds at a hypersonic speed," she said. "So far
everything has been successful."
Project chief Vincent Rausch had earlier said the 230 million dollar
programme "could mark the beginning of a revolution in aviation and
NASA says the prototype engine is destined to eventually power a new
generation of space shuttles. The test of the tiny prototype - only
3.6 meters in length and 1.5 meters wingspan, weighing 1.2 tons -
marked the first time a non-rocket, air-breathing scramjet engine
powered a vehicle in flight at hypersonic speeds, defined as speeds
above Mach 5.
The previous world speed record was established by an SR-
71 "Blackbird" spy plane, which flew at Mach 3.2. An experimental X-
15 plane was able to fly at Mach 6.7, but with a rocket engine.
NASA described the X-43 as a cross between a jet engine and a rocket
engine, called a "scramjet," for supersonic combustible ramjet, an
engine resulting from 20 years of research.
A scramjet operates by supersonic combustion of fuel in a stream of
air compressed by the high forward speed of the aircraft, as opposed
to a normal jet engine, in which turbine blades compress the air.
Scramjets start operation at about Mach 6, or six times the speed of
sound. Therefore, the aircraft needed to be boosted by an auxiliary
rocket to its autonomous operating altitude.
NASA said the scramjet technology seeks to launch air-breathing
engines to ever higher altitudes without the weight oxygen canisters
add, thus increasing payload capacity and eventually lowering the
cost of orbital launches.
The major difference between a scramjet and a rocket engine is that a
rocket must carry its own supply of oxygen, while a scramjet, taking
advantage of very high speed, extracts oxygen even from the extremely
thin atmosphere at high altitudes.
The X-43 has a theoretical top speed of 10,000 km/h but NASA said it
did not attempt to attain that speed during Saturday's trial flight. -
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