Friday, 28 May, 2010 Technology
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X-51A WaveRider - Hypersonic UAV Aircraft Reaches Mach 5

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Recently the US Air Force carried out a trial of the unmanned aerial vehicle X-51A WaveRider, which was able to achieve a top speed of Mach 5, flying at an altitude of 70,000 feet. Boeing claims that the flight, which lasted about three and half minutes, was the longest combustion ramjet-powered trip in history.

The X-51A is a product achieved by researchers and engineers from the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The project's industry partners were Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

In an official statement the US Air Force mentioned that the UAV was launched from the US Air Force B-52H bomber located off the southern California coast. "The X-51A's engine ignited on a mix of ethylene and JP-7 jet fuel...[and then] ran exclusively on JP-7 jet fuel," the official statement read.

The flight lasted for over 200 seconds, with the jet being powered by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne supersonic combustion ramjet motor. Then something made the aircraft lose its acceleration and at that point the supersonic jet was terminated according to the plan. But before the plane crashed into the ocean, all data was sent from the jet's onboard sensors to an airborne US Navy P-3 Orion and ground systems at Point Mugu, Edwards and Vandenberg Air Force Base, reports SpaceWar.

The X-51A managed to set up a new world record among hypersonic aircrafts. It could push engineers towards the creation of new applications that could be used in space, global reach and commercial transportation.

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