X-51A Flight an Unqualified Success

USAF’s X-51A unmanned hypersonic air vehicle flew further on its own power in its first flight on Wednesday than any other scramjet-powered vehicle in history, eclipsing NASA’s X-43 Hyper-X.

Charlie Brink, USAF’s X-51A program manager, said his government and industry team was “ecstatic” with this maiden mission. According to USAF and industry officials, the X-51A successfully flew on its own power for more than three and a half minutes over the Pacific, accelerating to speeds of Mach 5 and an altitude of about 70,000 feet. But after “about 200 seconds” of engine burn, a vehicle anomaly occurred and the flight was terminated, said Brink.

Nonetheless, the test was a huge confidence booster.

“We built four test vehicles to get a successful flight, and we hit many of our goals right out of the gate,” he said. (Tuesday’s test was scrubbed after a ship sailed into the splash zone.) (For details of Wednesday’s launch, see Edwards release, Edwards report by Diane Betzler, and Boeing release) (See also video of launch posted at YouTube.)