The second X-43A hypersonic research aircraft and its modified Pegasus booster rocket accelerate
Photo Description: The second X-43A hypersonic research aircraft and its modified Pegasus booster rocket accelerate after launch from NASA's B-52B launch aircraft over the Pacific Ocean on March 27, 2004. The mission originated from the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Minutes later the X-43A separated from the Pegasus booster and accelerated to its intended speed of Mach 7...Project Description: The high-risk, high-payoff X-43A flights are the first actual flight tests of an aircraft powered by a scramjet engine capable of operating at hypersonic speeds (above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound). The X-43A is powered by a revolutionary air-breathing supersonic-combustio n ramjet or "scramjet" engine. In a combined research effort involving Dryden, Langley, and several industry partners, NASA demonstrated the value of its X-43A hypersonic research aircraft, as it became the first air-breathing, unpiloted, scramjet-powered plane to fly freely by itself. The March 27 flight, originating from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, began with the Agency's B-52B launch aircraft carrying the X-43A out to the test range over the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. The X-43A was boosted up to its test altitude of about 95,000 feet, where it separated from its modified Pegasus booster and flew freely under its own power. Two very significant aviation milestones occurred during this test flight: first, controlled accelerating flight at Mach 7 under scramjet power, and second, the successful stage separation at high dynamic pressure of two non-axisymmetric vehicles. To top it all off, the flight resulted in the setting of a new aeronautical speed record. The X-43A reached a speed of over Mach 7, or about 5,000 miles per hour faster than any known aircraft powered by an air-breathing engine has ever flown...UID: SPD-DRYDEN-EC04-0092 -39
The X-planes are a series of experimental United States aircraft and rockets, used to test and evaluate new technologies and aerodynamic concepts. They have an X designator, which indicates the research mission within the US system of aircraft designations. The first, the Bell X-1, became well known in 1947 after it became the first aircraft to break the sound barrier in level flight. Most of the X-planes have been operated by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) or, later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), often in conjunction with the United States Air Force. The majority of X-plane testing has occurred at Edwards Air Force Base. Some of the X-planes have been well publicized, while others have been developed in secrecy. Most X-planes are not expected to go into full-scale production.
NASA Photo Collection