Boeing's X-51A WaveRider — a jet-fueled, air-breathing hypersonic rocket — is one step closer to reality.
In tests over Edwards Air Force Base in California, a B-52 bomber carried the X-51A WaveRider aloft for the first time, announced manufacturer Boeing Corp. The test was a key milestone in preparation for the X-51A to light its supersonic "ramjet" engine and propel the WaverRider at hypersonic speed for about 5 minutes, before plunging into the Pacific Ocean.
"This was a great day for the program," said Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
A ramjet is a form of jet engine that compresses the air before it to add in propulsion, allowing it to achieve speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. The X-51 program is a joint development between Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, who aim to supply the rockets to the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
"The early look is, we successfully captured all of our test points without any anomalies. I'm really proud of the AFRL, Air Force Flight Test Center, and Boeing/Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne teams' efforts to move us toward the big event. That flight test is currently planned in about two months," said Brink.
The Dec. 9 test, reminiscent of the early days of the historic X-15 program 50 years earlier, was conducted entirely in the airspace over Edwards AFB while various systems and telemetry were checked out. The Flight duration was 1.4 hours.
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