back to article X-51 ordinary-fuel scramjet to fly in December

Flight tests of a powerful US military scramjet prototype able to exceed Mach 4 while burning ordinary jet fuel have been scheduled for December, according to reports. Aviation Week reports today that the X-51 "WaveRider" scramjet will now fly in December. The X-51 will be released from a B-52 bomber mothership operated by NASA …

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Megaphone

Come on, be honest

This technology is being developed for missiles, not planes.

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Bronze badge

cool

takeoff from turbo then goto HYPER !!!!! RRRAAAAARRRRR

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@ Ian Ferguson

"This technology is being developed for missiles, not planes."

Why? Missiles work fine with rockets. They don't have to land, refuel, and take off again. Single-use tech is appropriate and cheap for a craft that destroys itself at it's destination.

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Anonymous Coward

Waverider is a generic nomenclature

for a hypersonic vehicle that uses its own shockwave to generate lift

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Another great Scottish invention

The Waverider concept was developed in the 1960s at Glasgow University and ASTRA, by Professor Nonweiler: http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~portwin/ASTRA/Waverider/waverider.html

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Unhappy

Remember HOTOL?

HOTOL was the aborted Rolls Royce project to develop a reusable spaceplane for UK usage. It was file-13'd by the Government in 1988, amid rumours of US and EU interests, conflicts, and other assorted conspiracy theories.

More reasonably, while the engines showed promise (and are still allegedly on the secret list in the UK), the airframe was apparently beset with technical problems, and this is probably why funding was withdrawn in 1988.

Still, it's a pity that HOTOL engine development didn't carry on over here, coulda been nice to have a working engine others could buy from us. Instead, as usual, we develop an idea, and the bloody yanks nick it.

Why am I hardly surprised?

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Silver badge
Grenade

@Come on, be honest

Yes but Mach6 planes look much cooler on the promotional video accompanying the funding request.

The aim is to make a Mach6 cruise missile to solve the problem that the current subsonic ones are cheap, effective and reliable.

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missiles, schmissiles

Most modern space rocket technology was developed as part of the Nazi V2 program. Let the military develop it, they have (our) money to burn.Then we'll use it to get to Australia without spending 24 hours in an economy class seat.

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Planes

So,

use normal jet to get to high altitude, then DIVE like .... to MACH 4, and start scram JET.

Now that sounds a fun plane ride.

maybe try it out on the shuttle ?

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Silver badge

@Ian Ferguson

Possibly, but what would the point be? By definition missiles aren't re-usable, and they seem to go plenty fast enough as it is, so what's wrong with an ordinary, cheap and reliable solid fuel rocket for a missile? No, I think that the only application is for something that you'd want to regularly get up to Mach3+, and that'd be an airplane.

Granted the plane might end up dropping missiles/bombs, but there's precious little call for that either when a 50 year old bought and paid for B52 can do just as good a job in today's conflicts. The US considered turning the A12 (the Blackbird's predecesor) into a Mach3 air defence fighter (the YF12A?), but even then in the 1960s it didn't make all that much sense. The USAF has been lucky to get as many F22s as it has, and that's a relatively ordinary Mach2-ish poser's plane by comparison.

So it might be for reconnaissance, but even then there's old U2s hanging around for that, and satellites do a pretty good job too. UAVs are pretty impressive too these days. And I can't see it being cheaper to operate than the old Blackbird given that they would have solve the same kind of engineering problems, and Mach3 wasn't cheap. So why would they spend money on building something that's better than something they've already had but discarded?

So perhaps it's for transport? Well, maybe, but there'd have to be a good customer base that really urgently wants to get from A to a very distant B very quickly to support it commercially. Concorde was withdrawn from service primarily because its customer base was decimated on the 11th September, and I guess the remainder have got used to video conferencing and 747s. So are there really enough people who want to travel that far that quickly that often? I doubt it. I understand why someone would want to get from London to Sydney really quickly (especially given today's weather), but who'd want to come back the other way that fast? I suspect that running an ocean liner to Aus would be more profitable, and jolly nice too.

So maybe it's for cheap satellite launching? Maybe, but they'd best hurry up otherwise Burt Rutan and Richard Branson will have got there already with something almost as effective and a whole lot cheaper.

Of course, none of those arguements mean that they won't, but it'd be an impressve sell indeed to the US congress to get the funding to do any of those things. It'd have to be significantly more impressive than the arguements rolled out to try and get more F22s.

So perhaps it's just to see if they can? I rather like that possibility :-)

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Alien

Attn aviation crazytech boffins!

What's up with the supposed black-project Aurora thing - is that still (?) taken seriously, or is it strictly a fringe fantasy? Personally, as an armchair fan of shit than goes fast who doesn't spend a lot of time keeping up on such matters, I'd love to believe it's true, even if it's no damn use to man nor beast. Anyone care to comment? Yes, we speak SpaceAlien.

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Missiles???

They already have a missile that does 4 times the speed of sound the Phoenix that goes at 3000 MPH yes it's a solid fuel system thats not good for planes hence the Scram jet for planes

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Coffee/keyboard

lol El Reg cos...

that link article about the nazi doodlebug thingy has the bestest EVER description of DARPA:

and I quote El Reg:

The Vulcan programme, regular readers will not be surprised to note, comes to us courtesy of DARPA - the Pentagon's intellectual game reserve where crazy applecart-bothering boffins can roam wild and hairy and free, pooping the rich fertiliser of federal greenbacks on bizarre tech-project seedlings.

/end quote

Brilliant!

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Bronze badge
FAIL

@ian

eh ? what the hell would be the point for missiles ?

most missiles I'm aware of are a strictly 'use once and destroy' variety.. not known for having to be refueled...

and rocket engines work pretty damned well for that. what the hell would be the point of a scramjet missile exactly ? a massively more complex technology to be:

1) slower

2) less reliable

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@Ian

I agree but you've got to look at the other side of the coin: Russia has announced plans to land people on Mars (a little while yet to go but they have plans). This could just be the opening gambit for another space race.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Chris 35

I very much doubt the Russians could land so much as a fart on Mars at present. The Chinese, however...

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Anonymous Coward

@stu4

The point would be a long range cruise missile that is small enough and moves quickly enough to provide little to no warning for the poor sods you're shooting at...

Think high speed, inter-continental nuclear warhead delivery system...

Changing the fuel from Hydrogen to standard AV-gas would help to significantly reduce the size of the weapon - Nothing to do with refuelling...

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Flame

"Regular" JP7?

"In the X-51, regular JP-7 jet fuel will swiftly replace the initial ignition stream of burning ethylene."

The JP7 is nothing but "regular". It was developed for and used only on the SR-71 Blackbird, the plane that dripped fuel until its fuselage heated and sealed itself while flying.

The "regular" jet fuels used by the military are JP8 (US Air Force) and JP5 (US Navy on board carriers, MUCH higher flash point).

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Missiles? Planes?

What about a scramjet missile that hits its target at Mach 6+? Wouldn't need a big warhead as kinetic effects do most of the damage - a bit like the MOP on steroids.

I'd like to see a S-400 try to intercept one of those - it would certainly have less chance than against a F-22 or B-2.

I'm more ambivalent about this kind of thing. Most of the technology we use today was developed for or used by the military at some point, especially aviation tech.

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Silver badge
Grenade

To answer everyone who has asked 'Why?'...

The primary reason this is going is that it still has a budget, and is therefore employing people...

If you want a military reason, an air-breathing jet will always have a much greater range than a comparable rocket. For air-to-air engagements, outranging your opponent is very important, but you have to do it with something quick.

Slightly larger missiles come under the heading of cruise missiles. Here. scramjet technology would enable you to build a comparatively small cheap weapon which flies rapidly round the world and then behaves like a cruise missile/Predator. So when the US get some intelligence that a 'Bad Guy' (tm) is having a meeting in Mogadishu, they can attack a nearby wedding party within minutes from the comfort of their own burger bar.

These two justifications have allowed the budget to remain, which takes us back to reason #1....

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Anonymous Coward

well

Well I don't care what they use it for, just that they get it working, after doing that they all may look round the table go "well that was fun... got any use for it?" "Nope" "Oh well, next please" then leave it to business sorts to see if they can put the darn things to use.

If scientists were practical we'd probably all be sat in towns with massive well maintained fires for heat, light and other things. Why invent something new when you can keep improving the same old thing?

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Joke

at Mach 6

I would still be late for work

according to Wolfram Alpha-

@5000ft =

2006 m/s or

7223 km/h

sensible comment, as the scramjet has no moving parts, could they use zip fuels?

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Silver badge

@Remember HOTOL

See this article for what the designer is up to now...sorry its Wikipedia..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaction_Engines_Skylon

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Grenade

Possibly used for...

Specal OPs deep drop? I can bet the designers have plans for, at the outbrake of war, being able to load up a few of these with elite troups from home soil, and HaLo droping them near the bad guys and taking them out within a few hours.

What will actualy happen is, like the blackbird, it will be very fast, but painfully expensive and take days of planing to fly, so they will just end up using ships and Jumbos as normal, but it means that for a while the heads of the worlds armed forces can have action film dreams.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Remember HOTOL

Hmm, Skylon & it's Mach 5 airliner deriviative, Lapcat....

At least they have some degree of funding, however pitiful, for the Sabre engine, unlike the 1980's....

Mind you, why does Lapcat, look like a 21st Century version of the Russian Mya-52 "Bounder" bomber, from the 1950's...?

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