...In A Flawless Test...

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

The 12-foot long, 5-foot-wide lifting-body scramjet vehicle, mated to a modified Pegasus booster rocket, was launched from NASA's B-52B at about 47,000 feet, in restricted airspace northwest of Los Angeles. The booster carried it up to 110,000 feet, where the X-43A separated and ignited its scramjet engine for about 10 seconds. After burnout, the vehicle descended and splashed into the ocean, as planned, and will not be recovered (fishing trip, anyone?). The flight is the third and last of three unpiloted tests in NASA's Hyper-X Program. The eight-year, $230-million program got off to a rough start in June 2001 when the first X-43A and its booster rocket had to be destroyed in mid-air. The second attempt, in March of this year, successfully reached a speed of Mach 7. Reinforced carbon-carbon composite material was added to the leading edges of the vehicle's vertical fins for this week's flight, to handle the higher temperatures generated by the higher speeds. The flight was originally scheduled for Monday but was delayed due to electronics problems.