Tests Are Crunch Time for Scramjet Concept
Boeing will complete assembly of the first X-51A WaveRider static test vehicle over the next two weeks, paving the way for hypersonic flight tests designed to show that the supersonic combustion ramjet is ready for practical application in missiles and space launch vehicles.
The flight tests, provisionally targeted to begin at the end of October, mark a couple of milestones: the first attempt to fly a fuel-cooled scramjet, and the initial try at flying an aerodynamically unstable, control augmented hypersonic vehicle. The Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne SYJ61 engine at the heart of the X-51A will also be the first liquid-hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet to fly, and is designed to demonstrate sustained flight at up to Mach 6.5.
A joint U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program, X-51A is aimed at proving the viability of a free-flying, scramjet-powered vehicle as the basis for potential follow-on roles in long-range, prompt-global-strike weapons. The scramjet could also form part of a combined-cycle engine for a two-stage reusable space launch vehicle.
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