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SCI/TECH: NASA X-43 Hyper-X vehicle targets Mach 10

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posted on Jul, 15 2004 @ 07:09 AM

Work continues on the NASA X-43 hyper-X vehicle. Earlier this year it made a successful hypersonic - Mach 7 - flight, and now NASA scientist are tweaking the vehicle to reach Mach 10. Probably the biggest problem is heat; "At Mach 7, the front leading edge of the vehicle would see about 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. At Mach 10, it’s probably twice that…twice the heat load essentially," Joel Sitz, X-43A project manager, explained.

The March 27th mach 7 flight made history, it set a world-record speed for "air-breathing"flight, the rocket technology advanced by NASA’s Hyper-X program.

Like the two previous tests, the next X-43A is mounted to the front of a modified Pegasus XL booster. The combo is hauled skyward from Edwards Air Force Base under the wing of NASA’s B-52B carrier plane. Once unleashed from the carrier plane, the Pegasus will rocket to 100,000 feet above Earth where the X-43A separates and then powers itself to Mach 10.

At Mach 10 -- or 10 times the speed of sound -- the X-43A is traveling at about two miles per second. That’s in the range of 7,500 miles per hour. Speeds over Mach 5 are defined as hypersonic.

“It is definitely easier to start with a successful Mach 7 [flight] and go to Mach 10. Had we not been successful at Mach 7 we would have had a big job ahead of us,” Sitz said. “Predicting the aerodynamic forces should be pretty straightforward. But the thermal is the challenge.”

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

NASA X-43 Photo Collection

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- X-43a hypersonic research vehicle reaches Mach 7


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