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NASA set to try hypersonic jet again

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Saturday's attempt comes 3 years after explosion

By Andrew Bridges

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - A second attempt to fly an experimental unmanned jet at high speed was scheduled for Saturday, three years after the first attempt ended in an explosion.

NASA said it hopes to reach a speed of nearly 5,000 mph, or Mach 7, during its second X-43A flight. The 12-foot-long plane would fire its engine for 10 seconds, then coast for a few minutes before crashing into the ocean off California.

If the high-risk flight is successful, it will mark the first time an exotic jet engine, called a supersonic-combustion ramjet or scramjet, has propelled a plane at so-called hypersonic speeds.

Even so, the future of the $250 million Hyper-X program remains in doubt: NASA recently cut funding for more advanced versions of the plane.

NASA and the U.S. military have pursued scramjet technology because it theoretically could cut the cost of rocket-speed travel. Rockets must carry their own oxygen to combust the fuel they carry aboard, but scramjets can scoop it out of the atmosphere.

The Department of Defense is developing a hypersonic bomber that theoretically could reach targets anywhere on Earth within two hours of takeoff from the continental United States. The earliest such a plane would enter operation is 2025.

In scramjets, oxygen from the atmosphere is rammed into the combustion chamber, where it mixes with fuel and spontaneously ignites. The plane has to be traveling at about five times the speed of sound for the process to work, so it needs a conventional rocket to begin accelerating.

The first X-43A flight ended in failure June 2, 2001, after the modified Pegasus rocket that carried the plane veered off course and was detonated.

An investigation board found that preflight analyses, including wind tunnel tests, failed to predict how the rocket would perform in flight. As a result, the rocket's control system could not keep the vehicle stable, according to the board.

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Posted (edited)

Update: They did it! thumbsup.gif

NASA successfully tests hypersonic jet

Saturday's flight came three years after explosion

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Three years after its first test flight ended in an explosion, NASA on Saturday successfully launched an experimental jet that the agency believes reached a record-setting speed of about 5,000 mph.

The unpiloted X-43A made an 11-second powered flight, then went through some twists and turns during a six-minute glide before plunging into the Pacific Ocean about 400 miles off the California coast......

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Is this the first steps in making a real

space plane?

With the shuttle being 'done' can we now

use this technology to make it into


Seems to me it would be the most logical

way. A plane that takes off from a normal

runway and then flies right into orbit

or beyond.

But they say it will be 2025 before we

will even see the first manned flight of

a plane using these new engines.

Why were we not working on this technology

long ... LONG before now?

To me the space shuttle has always seemed

like an odd way to get into orbit and

an insanely expencive way at a cost

near $500,000,000 per launch.

The future of space flight seems like

it will be kinda boring for a long time

and that is a real shame.

Well as long as war is on the agenda.


Edited by Gazz

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