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Revolutionary plane prepares to set speed record
Contributed by: G3nu1n3, at 11/12/2004 08:23:00 PM.

A small, air-breathing test plane will attempt to blaze into history on Monday by flying at nearly 10 times the speed of sound.

The hypersonic craft is one of three built by NASA for its $230-million Hyper-X project, established in 1996. At 3.7 metres long, the new type of plane reaches rocket-like speeds but is more efficient because it does not need to carry oxygen to ignite its fuel supply - it takes oxygen from the atmosphere.

And unlike jet plane engines, which use fans to compress air to light fuel for propulsion, the vehicles' engines use no moving parts - the shape of their bellies sucks in and compresses air at supersonic speeds.

The two previous flights of the craft, called X-43A scramjets (supersonic combustion ramjets), had mixed success. The first had to be destroyed in June 2001 when its booster rocket veered off course. But on 27 March 2004, the second set a new aircraft speed record of about seven times the speed of sound - Mach 7 - during an 11-second flight.

The third and final craft will follow the same path as the second flight, taking off from Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, attached to a Pegasus rocket and slung under a B-52B plane.

At some point between 1400 and 1600 Pacific Standard Time, the B-52B will release the paired scramjet and rocket at an altitude of 12 kilometres and a speed of Mach 0.8. Then the rocket will boost the craft to a height of about 33 kilometres at nearly Mach 10 (about 11,000 kilometres per hour).

Source: Link

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