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The Military Space Transportation Science Technology

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 Saturday May 22, 2010 @11:10PM (#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.
  • Wait a minute.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikesd81 (518581) <mikesd1@veri z o n .net> on Saturday May 22, 2010 @11:22PM (#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@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Saturday May 22, 2010 @11:29PM (#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.

  • Re:Nuke Engines (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @11:49PM (#32311472)
    Yeah so now every time a plane overshoots a runway we have a radiation leak...

    Nuclear energy is great for things like space travel and for generating electricity. It isn't so great for earth-bound transportation where it could easily leak. Not to mention the restrictions on a plane. Who cares if it can go from New York to Paris in an hour if it won't be able to be landed in Paris due to the fact it has nuclear material...
  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @12:03AM (#32311558)
    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 mach here, a mach there and soon you are talking real machs.

    The first scramjet based engine that gets into orbit will be a milestone for space industry, exploration and all future generations to remember. Scramjets require a tiny fraction of the fuel (read: price) that a normal engine needs to achieve a similar speed, they just need to be going fast already to fire up, hence why all these test vehicles generally use attached booster rockets to get them up to a few mach. With luck, the day that space travel no longer requires massive solid boosters just got one day closer.
  • Assasination (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Sunday May 23, 2010 @12:07AM (#32311576) Homepage
    The purpose of the weapon is to assassinate [popularmechanics.com]:

    Every strategist remembers Aug. 20, 1998, when the USS Abraham Lincoln Battle Group, stationed in the Arabian Sea, launched Tomahawk cruise missiles at an Al Qaeda training camp in eastern Afghanistan, hoping to take out Osama Bin Laden. With a top speed of 550 mph, the Tomahawks made the 1100-mile trip in 2 hours. By then, Bin Laden was gone -- missed by less than an hour, according to Richard A. Clarke, former head of U.S. counterterrorism.

    Putting aside this strawman example, the idea of push-button assassination is terrifying. "Comrade, you will sell me your oil. Remember what happened to your predecessor?"

  • by OrangeCatholic (1495411) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @12:45AM (#32311792)

    Indeed, I never figured out why the Concorde was banned in America. Unless it was purely for economic protectionism. Mythbusters tested sonic booms and they had to fly like 100 feet over a shed to blow out the windows. They started at 1000 feet and got no result. I think the Concorde flew a little higher than that.

  • Re:Assasination (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ravenshrike (808508) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @02:13AM (#32312192)

    No, that's what the railgun is for.

  • by copponex (13876) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:49AM (#32312756) Homepage

    Most Europeans have no idea how big America is or how much denser the population of Europe

    A majority of Americans live in urban areas. The population density of nearly the entire east coast is comparable to that of Europe.

    is or how much train tickets are subsidized

    Virtually every road and highway in the United States is constructed with tax dollars.

    or how government controlled mass transit allows the government to control where people live and how they move about.

    I always thought it was the UFOs or the communist party that lives inside of Pelosi's teeth!

    The nuclear power industry in the US was largely killed by environmental activists who were being manipulated by Soviet agents during the cold war... Environmental activists in the US have stifled and curtailed the development of every type of currently viable large scale domestic energy production with the result that the US is much more dependent on foreign energy sources now than it has ever been before.

    Is the hospital really allowed to give you unfettered access to the internet?

    Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000. -Jimmy Carter, 1979

    Fuck solar power. -Ronald Reagan, 1986

    Thanks Ronnie! -OPEC, 2010

  • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Sunday May 23, 2010 @08:24AM (#32313608)

    The atmosphere ends before gravity has diminished significantly. We're 6000km+ from the center of gravity, and a mere 100km out I can guarantee you that the engine won't work (likely it won't work higher than 20km). 6000km vs. 6100km just isn't going to make a significant difference.

    And again, escape velocity is much worse. I'm only talking about getting to orbit.

  • by settantta (577302) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:09AM (#32313878)

    According to the wikipedia article on the concorde, it was actually quieter than many other models in service at the time.

    I can confirm that.

    At one time I lived directly under the flight path to Darwin Airport (in Australia). That airport is also the local Air Force base and runway, so we had not only Boeing 747s and other passenger planes flying directly overhead at an altitude of less than 500 feet, but we also had Air Force Mirages on the same flight path.

    During the time I lived there, the Concorde visited, landing and taking off twice (or it might have been 3 times). I'll tell you straight, the Concorde made less noise on take-off than the Jumbo (and they were much quieter than the Mirages).

  • by WED Fan (911325) <(akahige) (at) (trashmail.net)> on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:47AM (#32314106) Homepage Journal

    I grew up when and where the U.S. Navy and Air Force tested and flew supersonic on a daily basis. I was a navy brat. On many days there were a number of sonic booms, sometimes as many as 5 or 6 a day.

    My father, a range director, once told me that the purpose of some of the tests were to see if changes in aircraft design could result in smaller sonic footprints. They were never successful.

    Now, imagine a somewhat regular commercial aircraft route going supersonic. The public wouldn't put up with regular booms.

  • by ZosX (517789) <zosxavius@gREDHATmail.com minus distro> on Sunday May 23, 2010 @10:07AM (#32314230) Homepage

    Yeah, for air breathing engines you would need a long run in the atmosphere to get anywhere near escape velocity. I don't think we are anywhere near the mach 25-30+ we would need. Air friction is a serious problem. Even the SR-71 was highly designed to cope with the increased temperatures. The X-15 basically flew into the very upper reaches of the atmosphere (to the point of nearly losing any sort of control, and a few of them did) just to contend with the heat and friction. Look at the shielding capsules use for reentry and the apollo capsules came in at a mere 17,000 mph or so. It is FAR easier to launch a rocket straight up to space have have it do most of its acceleration once it leaves the atmosphere.

  • by nacturation (646836) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `noitarutcan'> on Sunday May 23, 2010 @06:56PM (#32318296) Journal

    I'll tell you straight, the Concorde made less noise on take-off than the Jumbo (and they were much quieter than the Mirages).

    I would take an educated guess that it's because at take-off the Concorde engines are running very much under capacity, whereas a 747 at take-off is running its engines close to capacity. Much like how a fan in a 1U server screams just to push the same amount of air that a larger fan in a 4U server does leisurely.

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