Search Langley


NASA Fact Sheet

Text Size

2001 Flight and Investigation

The first flight attempt of the X-43A was in June of 2001. Unfortunately, the booster failed and had to be destroyed early in flight. As a result, the research vehicle was not tested because it never reached test conditions. Although no single contributing factor was found, the root cause of the problem was identified as the booster's flight control system. The booster failed due to inaccurate design models that overestimated the capability of the flight control system to operate within predicted flight conditions.

Numerous actions were taken in response to the findings. Wind tunnel tests were conducted to provide data to reduce atmospheric loads on the booster's control surfaces, more powerful booster fin actuators were added to overcome aerodynamic loads, and propellant was machined out of the Pegasus booster to enable launch at its normal launch altitude of 40,000 feet instead of 23,000 feet -- as on the first flight -- in order to reduce aerodynamic loads.

Still image of the Hyper-X vehicle in flight, taken from an artist's animation
Image above: The Hyper-X program has significantly expanded the boundaries of air-breathing flight by being the first to fly a scramjet-powered aircraft at hypersonic speeds. Credit: NASA

NASA Langley Research Center
 Hyper-X logo
X-43A Flight Makes Aviation History
The first and second successful hypersonic flights of a scramjet-powered airplane.
+ Read More
+ View PDF
 U.S. Army infrared image of the Mach 6.8 flight of the second X-43A scramjet on March 27, 2004
High Risk, High Payoff
Though careful analysis and design minimized the risks, Hyper-X was a bold step.
+ Read More
 Test a full-scale model of the Hyper-X vehicle at Mach 7 in a NASA Langley wind tunnel
The Record-Breaking Flights
During its third flight, the X-43A flew at about 7,000 miles per hour.
+ Read More
 Still image of the Hyper-X vehicle in flight taken from an artist's animation
2001 Flight and Investigation
On the first Hyper-X flight attempt, the booster failed.
+ Read More
 This graphic explains how air and fuel mix at supersonic speeds inside a scramjet engine
How Scramjets Work
In a scramjet, even the airflow through the engine remains supersonic.
+ Read More