World Bulletin / News Desk
The U.S. military conducted an unmanned test flight on Tuesday of its hypersonic Waverider aircraft, designed to move at six times the speed of sound using technology that bridges the gap between planes and rocketships, a military official said.
A B-52 bomber launched the remotely monitored, nearly wingless experimental aircraft, officially known as the X-51A, between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. (1700 and 1800 GMT), John Haire, a spokesman for the 412th test wing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, said in a statement. Results of the brief test flight will be released on Wednesday, he said.
The plan had been to conduct the test flight over the Pacific Ocean after a staging at Edwards, said Deborah VanNierop, a spokeswoman for Boeing Co, which was involved in constructing the craft, said in a statement.
The Waverider is designed to reach speeds of Mach 6 or above, fast enough to zoom from New York to London in less than an hour. But rather than commercial air travel, the military has its eye on a more readily achievable application - using it to develop high-speed cruise missiles.
The X-51A was launched off the coast of California near Naval Air Station Point Mugu, which is northwest of Los Angeles, Haire said. It flew north over the Pacific through a range that is designed for test flights.
"The X-51 is not retrievable, in other words once you fly it, it's going to end up in the ocean," Haire said.
The aircraft is known as the Waverider because it stays airborne, in part, with lift generated by the shock waves of its own flight.
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne designed the X-51A's "scramject" engine, which uses the forward motion of the craft to compress air for fuel combustion, according to a description of the project from the military.
After being dropped from the B-52, a solid-rocket booster is used in the initial phase of the plane's flight to bring it up to speeds that can allow its scramjet engine to take over, by inhaling air through the craft's forward momentum.
In 2004, NASA reached a speed of Mach 9.6, or nearly 7,000 miles per hour (11,265 kph), with a jet-powered aircraft. But that vehicle, known as X-43, only flew for a few seconds and its copper-based engine was not designed to survive the flight.
Engineers have hoped to see the hypersonic X-51A travel for five minutes of powered flight. For protection from extreme heat, it uses insulation tiles, similar to those on the NASA space shuttle orbiters, according to a 2011 military description of the project.
Hypersonic flight is normally defined as beginning at Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound.
Data show estimated net migration numbers reached a record 336,000 as of June 2015
Buhari, who came to power in May, has made crushing the six-year rebellion a priority and in August gave his military commanders until the year-end to defeat the extremists
'The god whom we seek to serve is a god of peace. His holy name must never be used to justify hatred and violence,' Pope Francis says
Sacking of French Muslim social worker for wearing religious garb did not violate freedom-of-religion law, says court
The toll is 18 dead, 11 hurt, almost 100 homes burned down in the village of Wogom
'We still have not heard any articulate apologies from Turkey's highest political level nor any proposals to compensate for the harm and damage,' says Russian president
Francois Hollande and Matteo Renzi also discuss fight against ISIL and the situation in Libya
At least 277 people have been killed in Burundi since the outbreak of the political and security crisis in April 2015, the UN has said in a statement
Cameron said that it was in Britain's national security interests to strike ISIL extremists and deny them a 'safe haven' in Syria
South Africa has agreed to enforce a Turkish court’s warrants for four ex-Israeli military commanders involved in the 2010 deadly Mavi Marmara attack, police say
Economic penalties also target businessman representing Assad regime 'business and financial interests in Russia,' says Treasury Dept.
Russia is continuing its retaliation to the downing of the Russian jet with reports claiming that Russian customs turning back Turkish travellers
The Western Balkans is at the heart of battle against terrorism, radicalization, says European Council president
'What's most important for Canada is that we continue to be a strong player within the coalition against ISIL, also in terms of military engagement,' PM Trudeau says
The United Arab Emirates has secretly dispatched hundreds of Colombian mercenaries to Yemen to fight in that country’s raging conflict, adding a volatile new element in a complex proxy war that has drawn in the United States and Iran.
President Mustafa Akinci says more progress made in last five months than previous 47 years