When it comes to air travel, there’s always a ceiling of some sort. First, it was breaking the sound barrier, which was accomplished in 1947 by Chuck Yeager, the world’s most famous pilot. After that lingered the so-called hypersonic speed barrier, Mach 5. The United States Air Force has been actively trying to break Mach 5 for years, and it seems like they have accomplished something spectacular. The Air Force’s X-51A Waverider has successfully broken Mach 5.1, a new speed record. Fire up the White Stripes and have a celebration!
“I believe all we have learned from the X-51A Waverider will serve as the bedrock for future hypersonics research and ultimately the practical application of hypersonic flight,” crowed a thrilled Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate. “This success is the result of a lot of hard work by an incredible team. The contributions of Boeing, Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, the 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB, NASA Dryden and DARPA were all vital.”
The scramjet-powered vehicle hit a top speed of Mach 5.1 during its 6-minute flight on May 1. That’s a feat on more than one hand. It’s the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever AND the longest flight made by the X-51A in its four test flights. The USAF has spent an impressive 9 years working on hypersonic flight at a cost of $300 million dollars. The plane traveled a total of 230 nautical miles.
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