Second Hypersonic Flight Ends Prematurely
Second Hypersonic Flight
Ends Prematurely, Brings New Flight Test Data
Ewards Air Force Base -- 17 June 2011 -- (AFNS)
-- The X-51A Waverider flew its second test flight at the Point Mugu Naval Air
Test Range over the Pacific Ocean June 13, bringing significant hypersonic
research data despite a less-than-successful flight.
A B-52H Stratofortress taxis to the
runway at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., June 13, 2011, carrying the X-51A
Waverider scramjet. It was the second test flight of the Waverider and upon
completion provided significant hypersonic research data to program engineers.
The hypersonic aircraft was successfully boosted to just over
Mach 5 and the scramjet engine lit, but failed to transition to full power.
Air Force Flight Test Center officials said after a flawless
flight from Edwards Air Force Base the B-52H Stratofortress aircrew released the
experimental vehicle from an altitude of approximately 50,000 feet. The X-51A
initially was accelerated by a solid rocket booster to a speed just over Mach 5.
The experimental aircraft's air breathing scramjet engine lit
on ethylene and attempted to transition to JP7 fuel operation when the vehicle
experienced an inlet un-start.
The hypersonic vehicle attempted to restart and oriented
itself to optimize engine start conditions, but was unsuccessful. The vehicle
continued in a controlled flight orientation until it flew into the ocean within
the test range.
According to Charlie Brink, the Air Force Research
Laboratory's X-51A program manager, Boeing, Pratt-Whitney Rocketdyne and AFRL
engineers are reviewing the large amount of telemetry data collected during the
test flight to identify the cause of the anomaly.
"Obviously we're disappointed and expected better results,"
Mr. Brink said, "but we are very pleased with the data collected on this flight.
"I am extremely pleased with the AFFTC and Point Mugu's
support and execution of this complex flight test mission as they provided us
every opportunity for success in this endeavor," he said. "We have attempted two
scramjet experiments now where one successfully lit, and one did not. We will
continue to examine the data to learn even more about this new technology. Every
time we test this new and exciting technology we get that much closer to success."
Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne built four X-51A flight
test vehicles with the program goal of reaching Mach 6 in hypersonic flight. The
next flight is tentatively scheduled for this fall.
(Courtesy of 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs)