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X-51A Hypersonic Flight Cancelled at Last Minute

by John Reed on March 25, 2011

Here’s a small break from all the Libya info we’ve been bringing you this week. Apparently, the second test flight Air Force’s X-51A Waverider hypersonic test vehicle was scrapped at the last minute yesterday.

The X-51A was strapped to a B-52 bomber from Edwards Air Force Base over the Point Mugu Sea Range off the California coast when test officials cancelled the flight, according to an Air Force announcement.

The mission was cancelled because, “all required test conditions could not be met.” Who knows what that means? An Air Force spokesman couldn’t comment to DT about what caused the delay.

The cancellation could have been due to anything from a technical glitch with the X-51A, the B-52 or even a random ship passing through the test range; an earlier test flight was delayed when a freight ship passed through Point Mugu’s test range. You’d think that military officials could temporarily restrict passage through the range when test shots are scheduled.

Here’s one possible clue; the Air Force’s statement goes on to say that another flight will be scheduled “following a check of the system and when range and test assets can again be aligned.”

This may be a standard post-flight check or it could indicate that it was a technical glitch, not bad weather or a ship passing across the Waverider’s flight path that led to the cancellation of the flight.

Service officials also can’t commit on when the next flight will be. Simple things like the availability of Point Mugu’s test range or Edwards’ B-52 mothership can delay a test flight, and that’s if there’s nothing wrong with the X-51A.

The Waverider’s first hypersonic flight last year was terminated at the halfway mark when hot engine gases seeped into the airframe cutting off communications with flight controllers.

 

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Anthony March 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Best new weapon system we have going rite now, I wonder how its terminal phase goes, a vertical dive would be insane!…standoff hypersonic cruise missile like the scalp-EG plus a near tenfold in speed, F22 should be fitted to carry one under each wing and fire at 50k+ feet already in supercuise…extra launch speed could be used to reduce its size…but if its not cheaper than Tomahawks they will only be specialty weapons. Combine real time Global Hawk spotting or maybe even that new USAF unmanned shuttle to position itself with ultra high res spy camera… who knows our troops could be calling in 600 seconds to strike time, more realistic time frame for powerful ambush/firefight support if that terminal phase isn't just too fast for last minute targeting updates. A building isn't going get up and run away to escape a Tomahawk so this is more of a time sensitive strike weapon…Khadafi is making a speech…lets say 5000 mph is ten minutes on target from 833 miles out. Make it 300 miles from a ship or 250 miles…So a lot to think about but development of vehicles that can reliably travel at hypersonic speeds will be the next step of human aviation history, bridging the gap between our flight and space capabilities now and what we should have 30+ years from now.

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Anthony March 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm

obviously there is an equation in there to compensate for acceleration time but reduce that 833 miles by a bit and your back on 6 or 7 minute mark. Lets see if our defense industry can re-adjust itself to produce a new generation of everything from a longer range more powerful rifle round for ground troops to aircraft that blur the edge of the atmosphere and space.

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David March 28, 2011 at 10:53 pm

The X51 is an experimental vehicle… whatever military uses that could be made from the flight tests would take a number years to get into the operational systems. For example, the time frame from the X15 flight tests to the Space Shuttle's operational flights is 20 to 25 years. The X51 is merely going through teething problems, as expected in any flight test program, and frankly a much ado about nothing.

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