The US Air Force has successfully paired the X-51A WaveRider to a jet-powered strategic bomber B-52 Stratofortress at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
The X-51, a demonstration vehicle built for hypersonic flight testing, is scheduled for its maiden flight on 2 December 2009 and is now undergoing additional systems integration and testing.
As part of the test, the X-51A will be carried by the B-52 up to 50,000ft over the Pacific Ocean and then be released while a solid rocket booster from an army tactical missile system will ignite and accelerate the X-51 to about Mach 4.5.
Subsequently, the supersonic combustion ramjet propulsion system will propel the vehicle for 5min to more than Mach 6.
The data from the flight will be telemetered back to Air Force Base prior to the X-51A’s submersion in the Pacific.
The X-51A WaveRider programme is conducted by a consortium of the US Air Force, Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, Nasa, Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.