NASA's X-43A Breaks World Speed Record

Released on Saturday, March 27, 2004
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.

The 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, California.

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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