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Hypersonic pioneer: the X-43A


Imagine flying from New York to Tokyo in two hours flat. Imagine a cruise missile travelling faster than a rifle bullet; imagine cheap and efficient space transport. For more than forty years people have been trying to design an aircraft that could deliver such performance. NASA's scramjet-powered X-43A has brought these goals a huge step closer to reality. On 16 November 2004 the unmanned aircraft briefly flew at a staggering 6 800 mph (11 000 km/h), smashing all previous speed records and beginning a new era in aviation development. The X-43A proved that hypersonic flight, at speeds faster than 3 700 mph (6 000 km/h), is possible and that scramjets are workable engines with enormous potential. Although NASA has completed its scramjet tests, the Australians have taken the lead and flew a scramjet in March 2006, just one of three planned.

Contents of the article

  • The flight history of the three X-43As that were built
  • A definition of ramjets and scramjets and a comparison with a jet
  • engine
  • NASA's Hyper-X project that led to the X-43As being built
  • Proposed X-43 variants including the X-43B, X-43C and X-43D
  • A technical description of the X-43 and Pegasus booster rocket
  • A brief history of ram/scramjets
  • Australian scramjets
  • Possible applications for scramjets

Related books from

 The X-Planes: X-1 to X-45: 3rd Edition