NASA’s X-43A, also known as the Hyper X program, was part of a $ 230 million high-risk, high-yielding research program that led to a hypersonic flight in March 2004
How does the super fast plane work?
“A ramjet works by subsonic combustion of fuel in a stream of compressed air from the forward speed of the aircraft itself, as opposed to a normal jet engine, where the compressor section (the fan blades) compresses the air. . The ramjets operate from about Mach 3 to Mach 6 “, reads a statement from NASA
“A scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) is a ramjet engine in which the flow of air through the engine remains supersonic. Scramjet motor vehicles are expected to run at speeds up to at least Mach 15. Ground tests of scramjet combustors have demonstrated this potential, but no flight test has passed Mach 9.6 X-43A flight.
The first flight attempt of the X43A in June 2001 failed as the booster rocket did not perform as expected.
However, this first attempt led to the second and third trials which produced record-breaking flights. Mach 6.8 was reached in March 2004 and Mach 9.6 was reached in November 2004, what would become the final flight of the aircraft.
In order for the flights to take place, the stack was flown by a B-52B plane from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center to a predetermined point in the Pacific Ocean, 50 miles west of the southern California coast, and was released at 40,000. feet. At that moment, the stack was dropped from the B-52B and the booster lifted the vehicle to the expected test altitude and speed.
This process was so successful that the third and final flight reached speeds of nearly Mach 10, flying around 7,000 mph at 110,000 feet altitude and setting the current world speed record for an air-breathing vehicle.
Both Mach 6.8 and Mach 9.6 results have been recognized by Guinness World Records, which listed the flights on their website and in the 2006 edition of their record book.
When the scramjet engine test was completed on each flight, the vehicle entered a high-speed maneuvering glide and collected nearly ten minutes of hypersonic aerodynamic data before crashing into the ocean, as expected. The vehicles were not recovered.
How did the X43A reach such impressive speeds?
Well, after the first flight failed, NASA scientists returned and reviewed the design and carried out a lot of development and engineering research and testing.
“Wind tunnel tests were conducted to provide data to reduce atmospheric loads on the control surfaces of the booster, more powerful actuators were added to the booster fins to overcome aerodynamic loads, and the propellant was sourced from the Pegasus booster to allow launch at its normal launch altitude of 40,000 feet instead of 23,000 feet – as in the first flight – to reduce downforce.