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The Military Space Transportation Science Technology

Air Force Sets Date To Fly Mach-6 Scramjet 252

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @12:30AM (#32311374)

    At the speed it's going to be traveling it'll shatter into a billion pieces on impact with the water, not to mention a few explosions from the super hot parts hitting much colder water. There probably won't be much left to recover.

  • Re:At least. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @01:00AM (#32311530)

    Dude, chill. Listen to some Jack Johnson. Watch a nice video. []

  • Re:Nuke Engines (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @01:01AM (#32311538) Homepage Journal

    nuclear...isn't so great for earth bound travel

    quick! Nobody tell the Navy they've been using numerous nuclear powered aircraft carriers for earth bound travel for almost 50 years without incident!

  • Re:Nuke Engines (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @01:15AM (#32311614) Homepage

    Aren't you forgetting about nuclear subs? Quite a few incidents.

    And airplanes not only are more prone to those, they also don't enjoy the comfort of generous weight budgets and being essentially buried after any accident.

    All of this is beside the point though - experiments with nuclear aircraft propulsion were performed by both the US and Soviet Union (the latter apparently actually had it propelling an aircraft, at least partially). If there's one thing they have shown, it is that even with the small crew and lack of comfort of a bomber, radiation shielding is a major concern. You simply don't have enough weight budget for it.

  • About time..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brad1138 ( 590148 ) <> 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:Nuke Engines (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @01:48AM (#32311818)

    quick! Nobody tell the Navy they've been using numerous nuclear powered aircraft carriers for earth bound travel for almost 50 years without incident!

    Insightful? That's the US Navy, not a public or private corporation. Your sarcastic remark would seem to indicate that we could trust corporations to use nuclear technology to create transportation solutions for us.

    Well if air travel is any indication, and the massive screw ups there with security theater, maintenance irregularities, cheap greedy bastards that would not outfit their planes with technology that could of prevented PanAm Flight 103, I doubt the airlines have the competency or the interest in our safety and security to pull off nuclear travel.

    Sorry, if they can't afford to give me more than 6 fucking Styrofoam peanuts on a flight, I am not going to trust them to give me a nuclear plane flight either.

    Of course, that is just the airlines. Car manufacturers could come in save us being paragons of humanitarian virtues and competence right? Hmmmm, maybe not. Well then we could trust the rail road system to.... Uh... Amtrack.... Huh.... Well maybe let's give a company not involved in transportation a shot at this.... Microsoft?

    The reason why we don't have nuclear based transportation outside of a few dozen (at most) instances of military transports is that as a people and society we lack the responsibility, attention to detail, and competency to deal with something as dangerous as nuclear based power at that large of a scale.

    Not that I am against nuclear power. Let's just be careful and limit it to reactors providing us the electricity where it would be a more manageable endeavor.

    Personally, I am very inspired by Aluminum-Galium based power sources for travel that is extremely safe compared to the alternatives, and nuclear power is very appropriate to allow us an easy way to provide such an infrastructure to deliver refurbished AG power sources that can deliver on-demand hydrogen to transport vehicles.

  • While true government investment in research is vital for our growth and continued economic performance it is not solely responsible for it. The government did start the first internet, but it was business investment that also largely pushed the further development and refinement of the microcomputer.

    The solitary inventor is largely pushed out of state of the art engineering. Like it or not much of science and cutting-edge research is a large, time-consuming and labor intensive practice that requires more work than a single man or woman can provide these days. Though it is still possible for a single person to "invent" something truly revolutionary it is exceedingly difficult and far more revolutions will come from organized large-scale efforts.

    There also is the myth of the "Great Inventor" just coming up with an idea that revolutionizes the world and without whom that revolution would never have come. If you look at history, this is rarely the case as often many scientists are working on similar lines and the credited inventor is just the first to succeed. If they hadn't someone else would have; it might have taken longer and been slightly different but it would have come.

  • 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...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @02:53AM (#32312082)
    "not blowing out windows" and "highly annoying" are two totally different things.
  • by T Murphy ( 1054674 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @03:35AM (#32312284) Journal
    Hypersonic technology isn't just blow-stuff-up research- this is closer to just plain science. It is extremely difficult to maintain stable flight over mach 5 or so, not to mention the feats in engine and materials technology required to reach such speeds. This is interesting science and engineering, so I think it is a good thing there is military interest to fund this- it is too expensive to very easily get funding otherwise.
  • by copponex ( 13876 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @03:52AM (#32312362) Homepage

    They have had this in France for years []. France is largely nuclear powered and sells electricity to it's neighbors. The train is a very sensible tech platform - uses existing rail lines for up to 140mph, and can go up to 200mph on specially graded track. I took the TGV from Paris to Marseille - a few hours for what would have been a six or seven hour drive and at least 3 or 4 hours through an airport.

    Most Americans have no idea how convenient rail travel is. I bought my ticket 10 minutes before the train left, and a few minutes after boarding I was enjoying a cup of coffee while I sat in the equivalent of first class on an airplane for about $50. I had a table, a full size restroom nearby, and dining car at my disposal. If you've really got the dough or don't have the time, you can walk on without a ticket and pay the conductor the highest rate.

    Planes are still the way to go for cross-continental travel, but a regional electric train system is a no brainer. Well, if you have a society that wants reality based solutions instead of empty rhetoric like "Drill, baby, drill."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 23, 2010 @04:45AM (#32312558)

    Most Americans have no idea how convenient rail travel is.

    Most Europeans have no idea how big America is or how much denser the population of Europe is or how much train tickets are subsidized or how government controlled mass transit allows the government to control where people live and how they move about.

    a regional electric train system is a no brainer.

    If by "no brainer" you mean a "stupid and economically nonviable idea" for most parts of America, you're right.

    empty rhetoric like "Drill, baby, drill."

    It is not empty rhetoric. It is a succinct expression of support for reversing years of letting a tiny, but loud group of environmental radicals dictate energy policy in the US.

    You mentioned that France is largely nuclear powered. The nuclear power industry in the US was largely killed by environmental activists who were being manipulated by Soviet agents during the cold war. France didn't have the same problem because it was not a significant source of resistance to the spread of Soviet influence.

    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.

  • by vbraga ( 228124 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:00AM (#32313476) Journal

    If DARPA never funded Internet we would use probably other set of protocols (like BITNET []) but a global computer network would still exists.

  • by yabos ( 719499 ) on Sunday May 23, 2010 @09:45AM (#32313730)
    He said horizontal Gs as in you're sitting upward and being thrusted forwards. Pulling Gs in a fighter jet is downward Gs which causes the blood to rush out of your brain.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"