Hypersonic speed starts at Mach 5, or being five times faster than the speed of sound. On Tuesday, over the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. military tested an aircraft designed to fly at six times the speed of sound.
The Hypersonic Waverider aircraft, officially known as X-51A, was launched from a B-52 Bomber and flew north over the Pacific. It is an irretrievable experimental aircraft which means it will likely end up in the ocean.
The Waverider is designed to fly from New York to Los Angeles in less than an hour. It uses a technology that bridges the gap between airplanes and rocket ships. But instead of commercial air travel, the military is aiming to use it to develop high-speed cruise missiles.
The hypersonic aircraft is called the Waverider because it partially stay airborne due to the lift coming from its own shock waves during its flight.
According to the military description of the project, the X-51A uses a “screamject” engine, which uses the forward motion of the craft to compress air for fuel combustion. The “screamject” engine was developed by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.
The X-51A is expected to fly for five minutes of powered flight. Test results will be known on Wednesday.
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News source: in.reuters.com