In a captive-carry test Dec. 9, a B-52 carried aloft the X-51 Waverider hypersonic test vehicle over Edwards AFB, Calif., paving the way for the X-51’s flight test in early 2010. At that time, researchers expect the Waverider to light its supersonic combustion ramjet engine for a five-minute hypersonic flight over the Pacific Ocean. “We successfully captured all of our test points without any anomalies,” said Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager with Air Force Research Lab’s propulsion directorate at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, of last week’s test. AFRL, which has teamed with DARPA, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, and Rocketdyne on the project, expects to conduct one more “full dress rehearsal” before the first hypersonic test flight in February, said Brink. (Wright-Patt release; mating tests were conducted in summer 2009)
When the Air Force sets a new program baseline for the B-52 re-engining this fall, there will be “some” cost increase, because the project wasn't previously fully funded, and the Air Force has a better handle on actual supplier costs and knowledge from ground testing, program officials said.