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NASA's B-52B launch aircraft takes off carrying the second X-43A hypersonic research vehicle attached to a modified Pegasus rocket, on March 27, 2004.

Photo Number: ED04-0090-2
Photo Date: March 27, 2004
Formats: 557x480 JPEG Image (126 KBytes)
1189x1024 JPEG Image (446 KBytes)
2786x2400 JPEG Image (2068 KBytes)
The second X-43A hypersonic research aircraft and its modified Pegasus booster rocket left the runway, carried aloft by NASA's B-52B launch aircraft from the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on March 27, 2004. About an hour later the Pegasus booster was launched from the B-52 to accelerate the X-43A to its intended speed of Mach 7.
The high-risk, unpiloted X-43A flights are the first actual flight tests of an aircraft powered by a scramjet engine capable of operating at hypersonic speeds (above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound). The X-43A is powered by a revolutionary air-breathing supersonic-combustion ramjet or "scramjet" engine.

In a combined research effort involving Dryden, Langley, and several industry partners, NASA demonstrated the value of its X-43A hypersonic research aircraft, as it became the first air-breathing, unpiloted, scramjet-powered plane to fly freely by itself. The March 27 flight, originating from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, began with the Agency's B-52B launch aircraft carrying the X-43A out to the test range over the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. The X-43A was boosted up to its test altitude of about 95,000 feet, where it separated from its modified Pegasus booster and flew freely under its own power.

Two very significant aviation milestones occurred during this test flight: first, controlled accelerating flight at Mach 7 under scramjet power, and second, the successful stage separation at high dynamic pressure of two non-axisymmetric vehicles. To top it all off, the flight resulted in the setting of a new aeronautical speed record. The X-43A reached a speed of over Mach 7, or about 5,000 miles per hour faster than any known aircraft powered by an air-breathing engine has ever flown.

NASA Photo by: Tom Tschida
Keywords: X-43A, X-43, Hyper-X, scramjet, takeoff, launch, flight 2, hypersonic research vehicle, Pegasus booster rocket, B-52, B-52B, mach 7

Last Modified: March 27, 2004
Responsible NASA Official: Marty Curry
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