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X-43A rode on the first stage of an Orbital Sciences Corp. booster rocket on March 27, 2004. It was launched by NASA Dryden's B-52 at about 40,000 feet. The booster accelerated the Hyper-X research vehicle to the test conditions (Mach 7 or 10) at approximately 100,000 feet, where it separated from the booster and flew under its own power. Orbital Science's Launch Vehicles Division in Chandler, Arizona. builds the Hyper-X launch vehicles.

Photos and graphics of the X-43 are available in the Photo Collection and Graphics Collection. Additional features are in a special edition of the Dryden X-Press.

DFRC Movie # Date Movie Description
Flight 3
News Releases: 04-59 04-58 04-57 04-56 04-55 04-53 04-51 04-50 04-49
EM-0015-15 November 16, 2004 X-43A Hypersonic Scramjet Compiled Video, Flights 2 and 3 Mar. 27 and Nov. 16, 2004
EM-0015-14 November 16, 2004 X-43A/Pegusus booster rocket launch
EM-0015-13 November 16, 2004 B-52B takeoff with X-43A
EM-0015-12 November 1, 2004 Getting ready for Mach 10
Flight 2
News Releases: 04-20 04-16 04-15 04-14 04-12 04-06 04-03 04-02
EM-0015-11 September 27, 2004 Captive carry flight of Vehicle #3
EM-0015-10 March 27, 2004 X-43A Hypersonic Separation and Free Flight Infrared Footage
EM-0015-09 March 27, 2004 X-43A successful launch from B-52 mothership
EM-0015-08 March 27, 2004 X-43A pre-launch flight control tests
EM-0015-07 March 27, 2004 X-43A taking off on second test flight
EM-0015-06 2004 X-43 overview with narration
EM-0015-05 January 26, 2004 X-43 captive carry flight
Older Movies
EM-0015-04 June 2, 2001 X-43 / Hyper-X first launch
EM-0015-03 June 2, 2001 First B-52 captive flight of X-43A / Pegasus stack
EM-0015-02 1997 X-43A separation from Pegasus and flight - computer animation
EM-0015-01 1997 X-43A / Pegasus stack drop launch from B-52 mothership - computer animation

With a contract awarded to MicroCraft, Inc., Tullahoma, Tennessee, in March of 1997, NASA embarked on a significant new
project to demonstrate the use of supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) technologies at hypersonic speeds on sub-scale vehicles now known as X-43As. Three of these vehicles are being fabricated at MicroCraft. The Hyper-X Program seeks to demonstrate airframe-integrated, air-breathing engine technologies that promise to increase aircraft speeds and payload capacities for reusable space launchers.

Scramjets employ ramjet engines in which the internal airflow remains supersonic. Ramjets operate by combustion of fuel in a stream of air compressed by the forward speed of the vehicle, unlike a normal jet engine in which compressor blades perform
that function. Normal ramjets operate with subsonic internal airflow and combustion; they operate from a speed of about
Mach 2 to Mach 5. With supersonic combustion, scramjets can operate at speeds faster than the Mach 6.7 speed achieved by
the rocket-powered X-15. Scramjets can potentially carry more payload than rockets because they are air-breathing and do
not have to carry their own supply of oxygen.

This joint program among Langley Research Center, Hampton Virginia, Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, and industry seeks to fulfill a key NASA goal of providing next-generation design tools and experimental aircraft to increase design confidence and cut the design cycle time for aircraft. Langley has been leading the effort to develop the new technology. Dryden has been responsible for the flight research effort as well as managing the fabrication of the X-43A vehicles and expendable booster rockets that will carry them to speeds of Mach 7 (two flights) and Mach 10 (one flight). The program has also assembled an industrial team providing some of the flight components.

These components include the venerable Dryden B-52, which will carry a modified Pegasus® (a registered trademark of
Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Virginia) launch vehicle to which the X-43A will be attached. The flights will carry the vehicles
over the Sea Test Range off the coast of southern California, where the B-52 will drop the launch vehicle at altitudes ranging between 18,000 and 39,000 feet. The X-43A will be boosted to the respective Mach 7 and Mach 10 speeds, whereupon it will separate from the launch vehicle and demonstrate the scramjet technology.

The objectives of the unpiloted flights include: the first-ever free-flight demonstration of an airframe-integrated scramjet; the verification of wind-tunnel tests, computational predictions, and analyses of the technology; and ultimately, the scaling of the design concepts to future operational air-breathing hypersonic cruise and space-access vehicles. This effort is challenging
because of the limitations on testing in ground facilities and the inherent uncertainties associated with computational methods. Full-scale testing requires flight research.

X-43A Project Home Page

Last Modified: October 26, 2005
Responsible NASA Official: Marty Curry,
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