is a small, unmanned hypersonic scramjet test vehicle which is
part of the Hyper-X aerospace research program. The Hyper-X
program will consist of three programs: X-43A, X-43B and X-43C.
The X-43 is also part of the X-plane series of aircraft (X stands
The X-43A vehicle is a lifting body and has a wave
rider design/shape. The X-43A is air-launched by an Orbital
Science Pegasus Rocket. X-43B and X-43C may use a similar design.
does the X-43A work?
The X-43A vehicle is attached to a Pegasus rocket
which carried under the Belly of a NASA B-52 aircraft. The Pegasus
rocket is released at a certain height and the accelerates
the small, unmanned Hyper-X research vehicle (the X-43A) to a
predetermined altitude and Mach number, where it separates itself
to conduct its mission.
Length: 12 feet
Weight: 1,300 Kg (3000 pounds)
Orbital Science's Launch Systems Group (LSG) built
three Pegasus-derivative rockets. The Hyper-X research vehicles
were developed by Micro Craft Inc. of Tullahoma, Tennessee and the
program is administered jointly by NASA's Dryden and Langley
History of X-43A Test Flights
NASA's hypersonic scramjet test vehicle, the X-43A Hyper-X, was
introduced to the media at Dryden Flight Research Center in
X-43A will perform three hypersonic test flights:
* Flight 1: June 2, 2001
The first flight failed when the booster disintegrated after
release from NASA's Boeing B-52.
* Flight 2: March 27, 2004
The second X-43A set a speed record of Mach 6.83 in March 27,
2004. The record was previously held by the the SR-71 Blackbird
which cruised slightly above Mach 3, or approximately 2,100 miles
per hour. The Sr-71 is still the world's fastest manned
* Flight 3: November, 2004
The third and final flight of the unmanned, scramjet-powered
X-43A is scheduled for early November 2004.
NASA conducted a captive-carry dress rehearsal of the planned
Mach 10 flight of its X-34A hypersonic research aircraft on 27
program's aim is to demonstrate future hypersonic propulsion and
airframe technologies. Originally Hyper-X was a five-year, $200
Hyper-X missions will originate from Edwards AFB and will fly off
the coast of California. The Hyper-X launch vehicle and scramjet
research vehicle "stack" will be air-launched from
NASA's B-52B carrier aircraft, the same one used on the original
Pegasus missions in the early 1990's, as well as on the X-15 and
numerous other experimental aircraft programs in the past. The
booster will accelerate the stack to a predetermined altitude and
Mach number, after which the X-43A will separate from the booster
and fly under its own power at seven times the speed of sound.
Currently, Hyper-X is planned to fly faster than any
air-breathing vehicle before, opening the frontier for aircraft
with speeds measured in miles per second.
the Hyper-X Launch Vehicle, the Pegasus rocket's second and third
stages have been eliminated, as has the fairing, which is normally
used to protect satellite payloads. The Hyper-X research vehicle
and its adapter will ride atop the front of a specially configured
Pegasus first stage solid rocket motor. A newly developed thermal
protection system will protect the Pegasus composite structures
against severe heating loads associated with lower-altitude
hypersonic operations. Other modifications to Pegasus include
upgraded first stage guidance and an avionics repackaging that
permits ballasting of the booster for flight conditions between
Mach 7 and 10.
Did you know?
- Scramjet stands for Supersonic Combustion
- NASA is using the Hyper-X vehicles to test
Scramjet propulsion technologies that could be applied to future
reusable space launchers and hypersonic aircraft. While vehicles
with conventional rocket engines carry oxygen on board, the
air-breathing Hyper-X vehicles ingest and compress oxygen from the
atmosphere using the vehicle airframe. Scramjets could potentially
increase payload capacity on future vehicles since no onboard
supply of oxidizer would be required.
- Pegasus rocket is an air-launched rocket that
delivers payloads to low earth orbit.
Since 1990, the three-stage Pegasus rocket has
conducted 30 launches and placed over 70 satellites into orbit
from six separate sites worldwide.
The Hyper-X Launch Vehicle represents an
application of Pegasus technology envisioned by NASA and Orbital
since the development of Pegasus in the late 1980's. In addition
to space launch, Pegasus is ideally suited to hypersonic research
Propulsion (Progress in Astronautics and Aeronautics, Vol 189) by
E. T. Curran, S. N. B. Murthy
Airbreathing Propulsion/Book and Disk (Aiaa Education) by
William H. Heiser, David T. Pratt, Daniel H. Daley, Unmeel B.
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