Nasa Unveils New Plane Capable Of Mach 7000MPH

Fri Apr 20, 2001 12:11 pm

Thursday April 19 6:23 AM ET
NASA Unveils Futuristic Aircraft

By ANDREW BRIDGES, AP Science Writer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) - NASA (news - web sites) has unveiled a futuristic aircraft designed to accelerate through the atmosphere at speeds up to 7,200 mph, making it the world's fastest plane.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's first unpiloted X-43A will make its maiden flight in mid-May, flying under its own power for just 10 seconds and about 17 miles before crashing into the Pacific Ocean.

NASA said the plane, which it unveiled Wednesday, is designed to fly seven to 10 times faster than the speed of sound. Mach 1 is the speed of sound, which varies by altitude and is about 750 mph at sea level.

After the initial flight, two more of the 12-foot-long, surfboard-shaped planes will fly at six-month intervals. If successful, the planes will smash the speed record of Mach 6.7, set by an X-15 in October 1967.

``This is an aviation first,'' said Vince Rausch, manager of the X-43A program at NASA's Langley Research Center.

Unlike the rocket-powered X-15, the X-43A has an air-breathing engine. It carries hydrogen for fuel, but must scoop oxygen out of the atmosphere to combust it. Conventional rockets carry both fuel and an oxidant.

Currently, the fastest air-breathing aircraft is the SR-71 ``Blackbird,'' which cruises slightly faster than Mach 3. The X-43A should become the first air-breathing plane to go hypersonic, or faster than Mach 5.

The government has pursued the idea of routine hypersonic flight for four decades, including an abortive $2.4 billion effort begun under President Reagan to build a ``National Aero-Space Plane'' capable of zipping halfway around the globe in a few hours.

``The concept is pretty simple, it's just that no one can seem to make it work,'' said Howard McCurdy, a professor of public affairs at American University.

The $185 million X-43A project is purely experimental. Engineers will collect flight data needed to build future planes perhaps 200 feet in length. The first piloted prototypes may fly by 2025.

The X-43A, or Hyper-X, will probably never carry commercial passengers because of the high acceleration, heat generated by friction with the atmosphere and the difficulty of turning a plane at such high speeds.

Backers of the technology say air-breathing hypersonic propulsion could help space travel. Eliminating the need to carry oxygen could cut the weight of a space-faring version of such a plane in half.

The X-43A, however, requires a big boost to get going.

To make sure the air goes through the engine fast enough during test flights, a B-52 will haul the X-43A to about 24,000 feet and release it. A booster rocket will ignite to accelerate the X-43A to its test speed and altitude of about 100,000 feet. The X-43A will then separate from the booster and fly west over the ocean.

The X-43A needs the rocket boost in order for its specialized supersonic-combustion ramjet, or ``scramjet,'' engine to work. In normal jet engines, rotating blades do the compression work. A scramjet engine only works when air flows through it at supersonic speeds.

``The analogy is lighting a match and keeping it lit in a hurricane,'' said Joel Sitz, X-43A flight test project manager at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center.

WOW  Wow!

-Pedro  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

RE: Nasa Unveils New Plane Capable Of Mach 7000MPH

Fri Apr 20, 2001 12:14 pm

Mach 7000MPH??? I'm sorry, I meant 7000MPH. Big grin

- Pedro  Smile

Popular Searches On

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos