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X-43A Mach 10 Mission Scrubbed For Today 98

An anonymous reader writes "NASA's third X-43A hypersonic research mission has been scrubbed for today due to technical glitches with X-43A instrumentation. When the issues were addressed, not enough time remained in the launch window."
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X-43A Mach 10 Mission Scrubbed For Today

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  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @08:21PM (#10825447) Homepage
    SpaceFlightNow's X-43 coverage []
  • It flew so fast that it traveled forward in time. Have you noticed that the X-43A has a little box attached. What do you think the little box does? (Reference to Primer movie)
  • by Mendy ( 468439 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @08:22PM (#10825456)
    ... to have the day off "visiting the Black Mesa research facility" ;)
  • 99% success? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by dadjaka ( 827325 )
    Is this like the space shuttle, where even if 99% of the components worked, the mission would still fail?

    What 1% failed here?
    • Re:99% success? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ravenspear ( 756059 )
      I don't think anyone is really sure what the probabilities are. The speed they are trying to achieve is too fast to simulate on the ground, so there are a lot of unknowns.
      • Re:99% success? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        NASA Langley has a Mach 20 wind tunnel. I used to work in the transsonic facility there, and that tunnel is basically an integral part of the building. I also worked in another building right next to the scramjet testing facility. That used to shake books off the shelf when they fired it up
        • Well, my comment was based on what NASA officials said in this article []. Maybe it's something specific to this engine that makes it impossible to test there.
        • The problem is with faster wind tunnels is that the faster you want the airflow, the lower amount of time that airflow can be reliably sustained. At mach 20, you are talking about a few seconds of airflow at a time, with big buildups inbetween.
    • Re:99% success? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anubis350 ( 772791 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @08:27PM (#10825501)
      more like a good test, where if 99% of the compenents work but 1% doesnt they dont fly until they solve that 1%. Haste is no reason for sloppiness, NASA's engineers are doing things properly here
    • Re:99% success? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by omb ( 759389 )
      No, the reliability needed is much greater than 99%, which is just better odds at Russian Roulette,

      how do you think the Civil Airline industry would work if 1 plane in 100 crashed?

      There are two interesting questions here:

      1: Who was responsible for this incompetance.

      Where is the effective oversight?

      2: When will effective competition to NASA deploy itself

      Given Posting Guidelines it is hard to be pejoritive and rude enough about this totally failed organization.

      • Re:99% success? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @09:22PM (#10825901) Homepage
        How, exactly, is "fixing a problem in a hand-made experimental craft, that was revealed by a well-planned and thorough inspection" considered "incompetance"? I'd call that about as good of an organizational plan as you could have for an experimental project like the X-43.

        > how do you think the Civil Airline industry
        > would work if 1 plane in 100 crashed?

        Awful analogy. Airplanes are mass-produced, mass operated commodity machines.

        Better analogy: How would people react in the middle ages if 1 ocean exploration mission out of 100 sank?

        Answer: They'd cheer for their astounding success, and give proper credit where it was due, unlike you people that know almost nothing about rocketry or NASA experimentation beyond the shuttle and ISS, who never miss an opportunity to bash all that NASA has accomplished.
        • Better analogy: How would people react in the middle ages if 1 ocean exploration mission out of 100 sank?

          They'd be devastated. Despite the conditions at the time, the ships were generally quite safe, with only one or two out of a thousand actually sinking.

          The same was not, of course, true for the crew. Generally speaking such ships set out with two complete crews and were lucky to come back with one. This happened in part because many would die along the way, but also because many sailors made just a s

          • Are you sure that applies to *exploration* missions? When I think of exploration missions, I come to a much higher ship-loss rate. Columbus lost nine ships in his four voyages. Only one of Magellan's 5 ships made it back. Cortez lost all of his ships, although to be fair, that was deliberate to stop his men from retreating ;) Etc. Every global "exploration" expedition that I can think of from the late middle ages/early renaissance had a large ship loss rate.
            • The figure I gave came from a replica of a ship from that era, this one [] to be precise. It could be that it was only valid for ships in this class, i.e. trading vessels sailing between the Netherlands and Indonesia. While that was a well-known route, it was extremely long and included some significant hazards.

              If you are in the neighbourhood, visiting is highly recommended, BTW...

  • Technical difficulty, sure.. I bet the pilot was busy getting laid or somthing. Pilots always get the women, especially when chicks know you fly a big powerful mach 10 jet!
    • Re:Lies (Score:4, Funny)

      by InfiniteWisdom ( 530090 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @08:29PM (#10825518) Homepage
      Its a pilotless plane
      • Re:Lies (Score:3, Funny)

        by wasted ( 94866 )
        Its a pilotless plane

        So in true slashdot-reader fashion, nobody gets laid as a result
      • Re:Lies (Score:3, Funny)

        by tool462 ( 677306 )
        So the pilot no longer gets laid, he just plays with his joystick?
      • Unless it is entirely autonomous, it still has a pilot. I find it hard to believe though that they would put out a totally autonomous, mach 10 jet.
        • Re:unless (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Moofie ( 22272 )
          I find it hard to believe that there will be a man in the loop. Do you have any idea how fast bad things can happen at Mach 10?

          You know that all the "pilot" does on rocket launches is not push the abort button, right?

          You know what happens if you pull back too hard on the stick of a scramjet powered aircraft? You upset the shock wave system that is compressing the air, you get a normal shock wave in the throat of the engine, the drag on the aircraft increases by a MONSTROUS factor, and the engine unstart
          • Besides what *might* happen, I believe the craft is actually *supposed* to disentigrate as part of the test. I can't imagine it has landing gear, a parachute, or anything of the sort.
            • It's supposed to crash into the ocean, but I have no idea what that has to do with whether it's remotely piloted or autonomous.
      • Just because the pilot is too busy with the ladies!
        Wiki de Ciencia Ficcion y Fantasia []
      • Re:Lies (Score:2, Funny)

        by hengist ( 71116 )
        Great, a machine gets it more than most Slashdotters.

    • Technical difficulty, sure.. I bet the pilot was busy getting laid or somthing. Pilots always get the women, especially when chicks know you fly a big powerful mach 10 jet!

      Somehow I doubt this. The plane is only 12 feet long. That's virtually nothing compared to most planes, and you know what they say about the length of your aircraft :/
    • You think mach 10 is fast. Well.. guess what... that's nothing. Mine goes to 11. It's one faster.
  • I've had some doubts about this aircraft:

    1) It cheats. It uses a booster rocket to get 90% of its velocity.
    2) it's smaller than a car

    So.... can the thing physically scale up enough to carry fuel and a seperate mode of propultion to reach the right altitude/speed, and have enough space to carry passengars and/or payload? Or, does its design specifically rely on being small?
    • 1) It cheats. It uses a booster rocket to get 90% of its velocity.

      It also relies on another aircraft (B-52) to lift it to the required initial altitude.
    • The first supersonic aircraft were carried to test altitude by bombers as well. With any technology like this, you want to be testing just the new part; we know that ground->40,000ft->100,000ft is doable with current tech, the new bit is accelerating to mach 10 once you get there. The Bell X-1 was a flying gas tank, so is this. But an F-22 is a complete system, integrating existing technology with new advances in supersonic airframe and engine design. I expect much the same from the scramjet technolog
    • by rebelcool ( 247749 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @08:40PM (#10825610)
      1. No kidding! Its a scramjet. Perhaps you should look up what that is and how it works.

      2. Its a flying engine.

      The point is to test the engine at a new, insanely fast speed to demonstrate that it can be done. It is not intended to have anything to do with passengers. Its so new, the engine has never been flown in the atmosphere at that speed.

      Anything involving passengers is many years away.

      • Anything involving passengers is many years away

        does anyone honestly think the government would spend all this money to haul passengers around at mach 10? no- this technology is being developed for one thing only- missiles. it's so we can launch all our cruise missiles from the "homeland" at a moment's notice and not need carriers, foreign bases, long-range bombers, etc. so that we can wage wars on the (relatively) cheap and pull back much of the resources we've got committed on foreign soil.

        i don't kno
      • to add to that, I read the possible uses for this, at least for now are:

        1> thrust air-to-ground missiles to target deeply buried targets (maybe like saddam's crumbling molehole.. remember $1000 toilet and $500 hammer?)

        2> like others have mentioned, intercontinental ballistic interceptor.. (almost sounds as cool as CONTINUUM TRANSFUNCTIONER)

        jokes aside, I know that they're testing this thing high in the sky.. but wouldnt it achieve faster speed if they fly it near sea-level, since air density is hig
    • by nicnak ( 727633 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @08:41PM (#10825613)
      1) It cheats. It uses a booster rocket to get 90% of its velocity.

      It is not a test to see how fast it can get going, but rather a test to see if it can sustain flight at a speed faster than any other air breathing vehical has ever done.

      2) it's smaller than a car

      It is mearly a test. If they built one full size and then threw it away in the ocean, the public would be screaming bloody hell about all the wasted money. They are trying to be as efficiant as possilbe with these tests on a limited budget.

      NASA knows that if it screws up too much it's funding will be cut. I know what it's like to work under such circumstances and it makes you not take risks. That's the sadest thing is that NASA is supposed to be about pushing the limits. About discovering new things, breaking new records and now they are strugling just to stay alive.

    • It's not 'cheating' - that type of propulsion/engine simply doesn't work until the craft's body is moving very fast indeed. Any craft wanting to use this type of engine, would require a booster before it could operate [using current technology, maybe at some point in the future, the scramjet could be hybridised with a jet within the same body, who knows].

      As to the size, I assume that's because of problems with thermal dissipation - at that speed within the atmosphere, the body is going to get seriously hot
      • by rebelcool ( 247749 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @08:53PM (#10825690)
        Unfortunately jet engines only work up to around mach 3 and a little past. See the SR-71's engine, which is pretty much the pinnacle of what can be done.

        After that, its like trying to light a match in a hurricane. Oh, and the sonic shockwaves bouncing around inside your engine tend to tear it apart too.

        Scramjets don't ignite till around mach 5 though, so you need some kind of boost inbetween what a jet engine can do, and scramjet ignition.

        Mechnically speaking, scramjets are very simple. They have no moving parts. Just a fuel injector and essentially a tin can with which to ignite in. Its the *shape* of that tin can though that has required decades of research. Its geometry is extremely complex and touchy.
        • Isn't it theoretically possible to use a turbojet (or turbofan) to get up to (subsonic combustion) ramjet speed, and then use the ramjet to get up to scramjet speed? Not saying this would be the most practical way to do it, just noting that (I thought) it could be done.
          • I was at the pre-flight program yesterday, and they had a great chart showing the operating ranges of turbojets, ramjets, scramjets, and rockets, and comparing their specific impulses.

            The answer to your question, according to that speaker, was yes.
        • > you need some kind of boost inbetween what a
          > jet engine can do, and scramjet ignition

          It's called a ramjet.

          Of course, you can always go from zero to mach >5 in the barrel of a gigantic gun []. ;) And before you say that it wouldn't work with a scramjet, you might want to think again []

          Also, when you said "a tin can", were you referring to a flameholder? Scramjets don't use flameholders; they either use hyperglolics (like silane) or just simple heat and pressure of high velocity compression fo
          • Actually scramjets do use flameholders, they just don't look like the flameholders from subsonic aircraft. At the most basic level, a flameholder is just a local hotspot with some fuel, which seeds the main flow with radicals to encourage and stabilise the combustion. Cavities, crossing shocks and backward facing steps are all used as flameholders in scramjets.
            • Please cite a reference to a single scramjet model using a flameholder (even a simple "eddy zone"). That is contrary to fundamental scramjet design principles, which involve keeping a supersonic flow inside the engine at all points at all times. I've never read of a single model that uses even an eddy zone, so if you've found one, please cite. I've read several designs, and all utilize either hyperglolics or outright fuel/oxidizer pressure ignition.
              • AIAA 93-2329
                J. Prop. Power V4 N4 1993, p502
                Shock Waves (DOI) 10.1007/s00193-002-0147-0
                J. Spacecraft V17 N5 1980 p416-424

                Amongst many, many, others. Just the sreestream has to be supersonic. After all the BL is always going to be subsonic, no matter what you do.
    • 1) It cheats. It uses a booster rocket to get 90% of its velocity.

      Yes, it does. Right now, the trick is to see if a working scramjet can work. Normal jets suck in air and use that to increase the amount of combustion. Kind of like blowing on a fire. So technically it's cheating as well. There is a limitation to the velocity of air coming in. To have big fires (jets, rocket engines), you need to add more oxygen. Rockets carry their own oxygen, which can get heavy.

      The scramjet gets around this, and bu

    • Passengers? Payload? How about a camera and a big *ol'* lens? This thing is for imaging, you know, like a satellite, only much closer to the Earth.
      • It would be very impractical. There was a reason why they started using satellites instead of U-2s. It's highly impractical to have to launch something everytime you need to spy on someone, and it also tips them off to the fact that you *are* spying on them. Besides, any camera in there would melt.
  • X-43A design theory (Score:5, Informative)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Monday November 15, 2004 @08:45PM (#10825634) Homepage Journal
    • Waverider theory []
    • More Waverider theory []
    • My God, Hardware! [] - the experience of a Scottish Astronautics research group (I suggest reading the whole piece, the link points to the middle of the story, 'cos of the great quote!)

    The NASA design is example 4 on the summary page [] and is quoted there as having a theoretical top speed of Mach 20.

    The BBC [] has some good pics and information too.

  • So what if they would have spun for a few seconds before taking off.

    Design by committee. Gauranteed to fail on their flagship product, but always careful with their experimental stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 15, 2004 @08:49PM (#10825663)
    ...technical glitches...and...Windows...and thought, "Oh, well, that explains it."
  • by chochos ( 700687 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @09:03PM (#10825752) Homepage Journal
    not enough time remained in the launch window

    We've all heard about the short uptime of Windows, but this is ridiculous.

  • by thanew ( 829267 )
    when was the last time a nasa mission was on time?
  • by kettch ( 40676 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @09:15PM (#10825838) Homepage
    Where's the X-303 []?

    I watch too much TV :D
  • by marko123 ( 131635 ) on Monday November 15, 2004 @10:27PM (#10826327) Homepage
    The speedometer only went up to Mach 8
  • It looks very similar to the artists conceptual pictures of the Aurora [] I have seen over the years.
  • Would you prefer that after investing 230 million on a research vehicle, booster, ground crews, engineers, scientists, studies, etc. etc. etc.... would you prefer that NASA hurry the project up and launch a vehicle that wasn't 100% functional? I support NASA's decision to scrub for the day, and I look forward to watching the news tomorrow and see how the Mach 10 flight went. Good job NASA!
  • What launch window? Can B52's only fly 9 to 5 now? Does the autonomous drone punch a time clock and go home? Are they scared of bumping into all the other mach 10 aircraft wizzing around at 100,000 feet? wtf?
    • I'll admit, I laughed at your comment. Actually though the FCC clears the flight range over the Pacific from all commercial aircraft, and I believe boats in the area are warned to leave. If you can't make the window of time the FCC has cleared the airspace then you technically have missed your window. Flying without cleared airspace would endanger folks on the airlines in the area.
  • The underlying article is a day late. The test is currently happening.

    Have a look at: []

I've finally learned what "upward compatible" means. It means we get to keep all our old mistakes. -- Dennie van Tassel