NASA to test X-51A Jet that Goes 5 Times the Speed of Sound Tomorrow

Tomorrow the USAF will test their fastest experimental jet, the X-51A Waverider. It’s being prepared at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert tonight for a departure to the Pacific Ocean on the wing of a B52 Bomber.

When testing begins it will be dropped and the engines will fire, the test will last a mere 300 seconds. This is the longest flight test so far for the X-51A to date.

This NASA and Pentagon experimental aircraft could go from NY to London in about an hour, reaching a top speed of 1700 meters a second.

During the test the X51-A will climb to an altitude of 70,000 feet, cut its engines and crash into the Pacific Ocean and break up.There are no plans to recover the craft.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Editors note: This article has been edited for accuracy.

William W.

I am an amateur astronomer with a focus on astrophotography and deep space objects. I have 15+ years in the web publishing business and over 20 years as a space enthusiast. I enjoy reading and writing about the amazing discoveries of brilliant scientists and engineers.

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36 Responses

  1. Some Guy says:

    Um, “1700 miles a second”? I think not.

  2. GR says:

    1700 miles/sec — I highly doubt that.

  3. José Arrarte says:

    I think “1700 miles a second” is a little too fast ….

  4. Wow, I am looking forward to the sonic boom created by a plane traveling 6.12 million miles per hour (or 1700 miles per second).

  5. Fact Checker says:

    1700 miles per second? I don’t think so.

  6. Gagol says:

    Meters, not miles…

  7. durasro says:

    1700 miles per second?!?

  8. speed says:

    1700 miles a second…come on get your source right!

  9. Chairman Meow says:

    was this article written by an eight year old?

  10. SirisLeOsiris says:

    About 1% of the speed of light woo

  11. anon says:

    it must be written by bloody idiot american

  12. andand says:

    Dear William, I’m probably not the best one to complain of this, since I seldom press “post” without discovering some error in what I’ve hobbled together. But then I don’t blog or post news articles either. Still you, sir, take the cake. This article is so full of factual errors, typos, redundant redundancy errors and other mistakes it’s hard to know if you have ever heard of the concept of proof reading.

  13. Stefan Nabben says:

    you cannot fly 1600 miles per second inside the atmosphere buddy, no matter how strong the engine :-)

  14. Scott Parker says:


    on the wing of a B52 bombers wing.” Two wings? Is that because the B52 has two wings?

  15. lylejk says:

    $140Million spend for 300 seconds? Really. Oh well; we have more money to burn now that Bernake continues to press more. lol :)

  16. Jburry says:

    I’ve been watching the news of this thing for a couple years now, and I believe that illustration is the Pegasus rocket carrying the scramjet up to 70,000 feet. The X51-A is the little black thing underneath.

  17. Jburry says:

    Oh, and by the way, a previous version went up to 110,000 ft and flew at Mach 9.8 (nearly twice as fast). Darpa’s HTV-2 has flown faster than Mach 20!

  18. Laxator2 says:

    I presume the engine is a SCRAM-jet. Any word on how it will accelerate to the speed at which the engine starts to have non-zero thrust? Will it have an additional booster? AFAIK these engines work best starting around Mach 2, and a B52 is not nearly that fast.

    • jburry says:

      Right, the X-51A is an air-breathing scramjet. They say the limit would be about Mach 15. The Pegasus rocket is used to put it up higher – and up to Mach 4.5 which is fast enough to start. What I mentioned before: Darpa’s HTV-2, that was a rocket not a scramjet.

  19. Rob says:

    I was excited, until I read the last sentence “There are no plans to recover the craft.” – What a waste of money… There’s no computer program to simulate this? I mean come on, they wrote one to land a rover on MARS… Surely that was far more difficult to do? Or maybe I’m just wrong.

  20. Conrad says:

    They should probably think of a better system before flying people to london. Just sayin.

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