The Warp Speed of Today: Boeing’s X-51A WaveRider

By  //  June 2, 2014

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uses shock waves to add lift

ABOVE VIDEO: The X-51A Waverider is an unmanned scramjet-powered demonstration aircraft, capable of achieving hypersonic speeds five times the speed of sound. At that speed an aircraft could travel across the U.S. in under an hour.

The Boeing X-51 is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic flight testing.

The Boeing X-51A Waverider is an unmanned scramjet-powered demonstration aircraft, capable of achieving hypersonic speeds five times the speed of sound. At that speed an aircraft could travel across the U.S. in under an hour. (Boeing Image)

The Boeing X-51A Waverider is an unmanned scramjet-powered demonstration aircraft, capable of achieving hypersonic speeds five times the speed of sound. At that speed an aircraft could travel across the U.S. in under an hour. (Boeing Image)

It completed its first powered hypersonic flight on 26 May 2010. After two unsuccessful test flights, the X-51 completed a flight of over six minutes and reached speeds of over Mach 5 for 210 seconds on 1 May 2013 for the longest duration hypersonic flight.

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The X-51A WaveRider is installed on a B-52 for the X-51A’s fourth flight May 1. The X-51A reached a speed of Mach 5.1. (Boeing Image)

The X-51 is named “WaveRider” because it uses its shock waves to add lift. The program is run as a cooperative effort of the United States Air Force, DARPA, NASA, Boeing, and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

The program is managed by the Aerospace Systems Directorate within the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). X-51 technology will be used in the High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW), a Mach 5+ missile planned to enter service in the mid-2020s.

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