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October 13, 2004

MACH 10 Free Flight of Hypersonic X-43A Slated for November

NASA - MACH 10 Free Flight of Hypersonic X-43A Slated for November

Release: 04-50

NASA aeronautics researchers are looking to conduct the final research flight of the hypersonic X-43A technology demonstration aircraft in early to mid-November, following review of data collected during a 'captive carry' dress rehearsal mission in late September.

The final flight of the small X-43A research aircraft is targeted to sustain a speed of up to Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound (about 7,000 mph), powered by a revolutionary airframe-integrated supersonic-combustion ramjet or 'scramjet' engine. This is a very high-risk mission, but if successful, the flight will set a new speed record for an aircraft powered by an air-breathing engine.

Project officials report that a review of data from the Sept. 27 captive carry flight was completed last week, and there are no technical issues outstanding at this time that would prevent the Mach 10 flight from occurring sometime during the first part of November. At present, project officials are looking at several possible dates from Nov. 8 through Nov. 15, with the most likely flight date on Tuesday, Nov. 9, depending on the availability of the U.S. Navy test range off the Southern California coast where the mission will be flown.

The X-43A research vehicle is ready for flight with final integration to the booster and mission simulation testing to be completed this month. Final testing of the modified Pegasus booster's fin actuation system is occurring this week at Orbital Science Corp. facilities at Chandler, Ariz. Once completed, the remaining flight hardware will be shipped to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center to complete booster system integration.

The X-43A project is part of the Hyper-X hypersonic research program led by NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and operated jointly by NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., and Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. The program aims to demonstrate air-breathing engine technologies that promise to increase payload capacity - or reduce vehicle size for the same payload - for future hypersonic aircraft and reusable space launch vehicles.

For further information about the X-43A and NASA's Hyper-X hypersonic research program on the Internet, log on to: http://www.nasa.gov/missions/research/x43-main.html

For more information about NASA aeronautics research, visit: http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov


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