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Air Force Sets Date To Fly Mach-6 Scramjet 252

Posted by timothy
from the let's-go-dutch-this-time dept.
coondoggie writes "The US Air Force said it was looking to launch its 14-foot long X-51A Waverider on its first hypersonic flight test attempt May 25. The unmanned X-51A is expected to fly autonomously for five minutes, after being released from a B-52 Stratofortress off the southern coast of California. The Waverider is powered by a supersonic combustion scramjet engine, and will accelerate to about Mach 6 as it climbs to nearly 70,000 feet. Once flying, the X-51 will transmit vast amounts of data to ground stations about the flight, then splash down into the Pacific. There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle, one of four built, the Air Force stated."
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Air Force Sets Date To Fly Mach-6 Scramjet

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  • Great step forward (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ravenspear (756059) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @12:10AM (#32311270)
    The next generation in civilian transportation.

    There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle

    NY to Paris in 30 minutes! However, only one way tickets are allowed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fluffeh (1273756)
      Actually, there is a vast amount of data that could be applicable to civilian transport. If they can indeed get scramjets really working - and by really, I mean around five times fast as this bad boy, it could mean a DRASTIC price reduction to get things into orbit. A scramjet needs to get to about mach 25 to reach escape velocity, which is significantly faster than this test, but give it time. Let them run this thing, let them run data and the next one might be looking at another mach or two and so on.

      A
      • by EdIII (1114411)

        With luck, the day that space travel no longer requires massive solid boosters just got one day closer.

        So not only will I get to go to space one day, but also do it going mach 25 and cheaply?

        Are the g-forces a concern here? I noticed this was not a manned test flight. P.S - for any of the engineers reading this post I am willing to contribute a small poodle for testing.

      • If you want the power output of a rocket engine you need your oxidiser to be concentrated, which is not going to be easy to do even at mach 6. After finally running the numbers a hydrogen/oxygen rocket may work out better.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by phishtahko (1308293)

        A mach here, a mach there and soon you are talking real machs.

        Old McDonald had a scramjet?

      • by amorsen (7485)

        A scramjet needs to get to about mach 25 to reach escape velocity, which is significantly faster than this test, but give it time.

        A scramjet needs to get to about mach 25 within the atmosphere get to orbit. This means it will either have to accelerate stupidly fast or stay low for too long and burn up. It seems to me that it would be better to go mach 10, leave the atmosphere, and go by rocket the rest of the way.

        Escape velocity is even worse.

    • by SEWilco (27983) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @01:05AM (#32311564) Journal

      There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle

      They can't recover it because it already came back yesterday.
      So the test flight will be a resounding, albeit puzzling, success.

    • I'm not sure it will do anything with civilian air transport. I don't see this as cutting air drag, which goes up to the fourth power as speed increases, and increases fuel consumption. It probably wouldn't go transcontinental because of noise & sonic boom issues.

      Concorde tickets were $10,000 from NY to Europe and the operators often lost money flying it. The manufacturers lost money building the airplanes. A regular sub-sonic flight is $300. Unless scramjet can somehow manage to fly around $1000 a

      • Okay but compare business class NY to Europe. Concorde was still more expensive but on that route there are a lot of people who charge out more than they would spend to be on Concorde.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by amorsen (7485)

        I don't see this as cutting air drag, which goes up to the fourth power as speed increases

        In a flow without flow separation, drag increases linearly with speed. With flow separation, drag increases ~ with the square of the speed. Nowhere near the fourth power in either case.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Don't count on it. The major focus now is to make travel less wasteful (not only making aircraft more efficient, also supplanting them with high speed rail where that's applicable...and where there's a will to do it). Perhaps in a few decades we might have something merely supersonic, with speeds comparable to Concorde, but also more compatible with the really real world.

      This thing from TFA...mostly a nice first stage for orbital launches, I guess.

      • by mosb1000 (710161)
        You could use it do a sub-oribital flight. There's no drag in space, and you'd get to your destination really fast.
        • by sznupi (719324)

          But you still need lots of additional energy for a "hop" of appreciable lenght; pointing your nose up is not enough. Lots of additions / modifications...not that far from "first stage to orbit" that I mentioned. Plus quite small and expensive.

          And all this in a world which seem to try being a bit more sustainable; with high speed communication networks more and more prevalent.

  • ..accept it, is to go and get this baby. It should fetch a good price on ebay. I can only imagine the difficulties of finding this craft in the Pacific Ocean, but if you could... Legend status is yours.
  • Wait a minute.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikesd81 (518581) <.ten.nozirev. .ta. .1dsekim.> on Sunday May 23, 2010 @12:22AM (#32311322) Homepage

    There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle, one of four built, the Air Force stated."

    I would suspect that there is some secret stuff in this plane....so unless it plans on breaking up into a huge fireball right before it hits the ocean.....wouldn't it be foolish to drop something like that and not retrieve it?

    • Re:Wait a minute.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday May 23, 2010 @12:29AM (#32311364) Homepage Journal

      If it's going to hit the ocean anywhere near Mach 6 (3900+ MPH), it will be a huge fireball. At the very least it will disintegrate.

      • by jamesh (87723)

        it will be a huge fireball

        you've been watching too many bad movies. I doubt it will have enough fuel left to make much of a fireball, maybe you might get a pop as the vapour in the tank ignites.

        At the very least it will disintegrate.

        that it probably will do.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by LiquidCoooled (634315)

      to be honest, they have dumped and abandoned nuclear weapons in the ocean.
      one plane wont worry the big cheeses

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      I was actually thinking "Just what we need, MORE pollution in the ocean, and the American taxpayer is funding it."

  • The concept is not new but it is very difficult to turn it into practice. These guys at University of Queensland and others have been working on this for several years and have trialled severa prototypes before. http://www.uq.edu.au/news/index.html?article=20718 [uq.edu.au] Not bad without military budgets - beat them to the punch!
  • If you want the jet to scram, send it into the ocean at Mach 6. Just hope it doesn't land on a ship.
  • About time..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brad1138 (590148) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Sunday May 23, 2010 @01:19AM (#32311642)
    Does anyone else think it is odd that the fastest plane in the world is still the SR-71, which came into service in 1964.
    • Re:About time..... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by El Capitaine (973850) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @01:32AM (#32311724)
      Or that we landed a man on the moon in 1969 and yet we no longer have that capability?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Or that cheese comes in a can? Wait, what were we talking about again?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by fishexe (168879)

          Or that cheese comes in a can? Wait, what were we talking about again?

          Not just any can. A spray can.

    • Does anyone else think it is odd that the fastest plane in the world is still the SR-71, which came into service in 1964.

      Aeronautical engineering is a mature technology. A typical Cessna aircraft won't have changed for 20 or 30 years either.

    • by WoTG (610710) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @02:22AM (#32311956) Homepage Journal

      If there was a plane faster than an SR-71, there's no guarantee that it would be public knowledge.

      That said, a fast plane isn't as necessary for spying as it was in the 60's. Who knows what kind of crazy tech is out there doing the hard spy work now, the geek in me hopes that there's something more interesting than satellites...

      • Who knows what kind of crazy tech is out there doing the hard spy work now, the geek in me hopes that there's something more interesting than satellites...

        The challenge is automating the discovery of interesting information in the vast, vast collection of data captured.

        I take the battery out of my mobile phone when I'm going to any meeting of a political nature and any plugged in, uncovered CCD gives me the creeps.

  • "There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle"

    Really? You want to just let a potential security threat sit around in the ocean for someone to salvage and copy?

    Goddamn, let me call China right quick and let them know where they might want to start looking. If you're just going to leave it out there I might as well get paid to clean up your damned mess!

    • Yeah. Also, I find it hard to believe there would be no useful information in the condition of the actual hardware after the flight.

      Seems like some engineers have been sitting behind screens and simulation models so long they've forgotten the real world exists.

      • by jamesh (87723)

        Given the way that everyone has latched onto that fact, maybe it's been their plan all along. Say you don't want it, wait for someone to salvage it, then buy it back for a token amount. Maybe they're smarter than you think :)

        Alternatively, maybe it's not going to end its flight where they say it is...

      • If they terminate the flight in the ocean and the aircraft hits anywhere above mach 1 it won't matter if someone is on site to salvage, cause there won't be anything to salvage.

Those who can, do; those who can't, simulate.

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