A United States military designed scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet), called the X-51A WaveRider, is set to make history by flying the same distance as a Trans-Atlantic flight, from New York to Dublin, in just one hour.
If this week’s experiment is successful this scramjet could seriously revolutionize travel as we know it, but initially the NASA and Pentagon funded project is being tested for military stealth aircraft and new weapons.
Set for testing on Tuesday, 14th August 2012, this amazing experimental aircraft will be dropped from a B52 bomber and will ride on its own shockwave, reaching speeds of about Mach 6 (over 1,350 mph), according to Daily Mail reports, speeds far greater than what the Concorde once achieved.
Robert Mercier, deputy for technology in the high speed systems division at the Air Force Research Laboratory, in Ohio, told the New York Times what a great breakthrough this aircraft could be.
He explained, “Attaining sustained hypersonic flight is like going from propeller-driven aircraft to jet aircraft.”
“Since the Wright brothers, we have examined how to make aircraft better and faster.
“Hypersonic flight is one of those areas that is a potential frontier for aeronautics.
“I believe we're standing in the door waiting to go into that arena.”
The power needed to propel the aircraft to these massive speeds is created by using air and hydrogen rather than solely fuel. The scramjets carry hydrogen fuel and “pull” in the oxygen needed to travel through the atmosphere. The air is forced into the front engine as the hydrogen is injected in the airstream. These gases are compressed creating a massive temperature increase and ignition.
The aircraft was prepared at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. The technicians plan to attach the experimental aircraft to the wing of a B-52 bomber.
It will be taken to 50,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, near Point Mugu. From there it will be dropped and its engines fired. It will fly for 300 seconds, the longest flight the craft has ever taken.
Previous tests on the aircraft have been aborted after the engine failed. Even if this experiment does work, after 300 seconds the WaveRider will splash into the Pacific Ocean. There are no plans to recover the aircraft.
So far NASA and the Pentagon have invested $140 million into the project.