NASA - National Aeronautics & Space Administration
Scramjet - Supersonic Combustion Ramjet
The NASA's air breathing scramjet powered X-43A research aircraft flew freely
for the first time over the Pacific Ocean on March 27, 2004. The X-43A aircraft
reached a speed of Mach 7 at 95,000 ft of altitude.
X-43A research aircraft was released from NASA's B-52B bomber modified for
launch of smaller aircraft purposes. Then a modified Pegasus booster rocket
(also known as the Hyper-X booster) accelerated the X-43A vehicle to supersonic
speed and 95,000 ft (29,000 meters) of altitude where the Scramjet (Supersonic
Combustion Ramjet) ignited. The Scramjet engine operated for about 10 seconds
allowing to achieve the Mach 7 (seven times the speed of sound) goal.
The air breathing Scramjet engine is fueled by hydrogen and needs to travel at
supersonic speed in order to be ignited properly. The X-43A flight was
originated from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base,
The Scramjet engine could be a critical asset for some Department of Defense
programs intended to produce military hypersonic aircraft such as long range
bombers and new space platforms.
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