May 04, 2013 10:55 PM GMT
The cruiser traveled over 230 nautical miles in just over six minutes over the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range. It was the longest of the four X-51A test flights and the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever.
"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," Mr. Brink said.
The X-51A took off from the Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress. It was released at approximately 50,000 feet and accelerated to Mach 4.8 in about 26 seconds powered by a solid rocket booster. After separating from the booster, the cruiser's scramjet engine then lit and accelerated to Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet.
After exhausting its 240-second fuel supply, the vehicle continued to send back telemetry data until it splashed down into the ocean and was destroyed as designed. All told, 370 seconds of data was collected from the experiment.
"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," said Mr. Brink.
This was the last of four test vehicles originally conceived when the $300 million technology demonstration program began in 2004. The program objective was to prove the viability of air-breathing, high-speed scramjet propulsion.