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Original news source
AFRL’s supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) flight test vehicle officially received the designation “X-51A.” Since the introduction of the legendary X-1 in 1946, scientists have used the X-plane designations to identify experimental aircraft and rockets used to explore new aerospace technologies. AFRL is currently working with Pratt & Whitney and Boeing to design the X-51A scramjet-powered flight vehicle to explore the potential of its air-breathing system capabilities.
The Scramjet Engine Demonstrator-WaveRider (SED-WR) program will execute multiple flight tests of the SED-WR vehicle in 2009. Each flight vehicle will employ a Pratt &Whitney scramjet engine, the technology of which is based on AFRL Hydrocarbon Scramjet Engine Technology program developments. Boeing will integrate the engine into an expendable WaveRider-configured air vehicle. During the flight demonstrations, a B-52 will carry the SED-WR vehicle to an altitude of about 35,000 ft and then release it. Initially propelled by an Army tactical missile system solid rocket booster, the scramjet will take over at approximately Mach 4.5, and the vehicle will accelerate to a flight speed between Mach 6.0 and 7.0+. Applications for this propulsion concept include space access and fast-reaction military systems.