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X-43A Scramjet Primed for Mach 10
B-52B launch aircraft carrys X-43A hypersonic research vehicle Riding like the tip of a spear on its modified Pegasus booster rocket, NASA's third X-43A hypersonic scramjet research vehicle took to the skies today for a captive-carry flight, remaining attached to its B-52B mothership aircraft.

Image right: Tip of the spear: NASA performed a captive carry evaluation flight of the X-43A from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Sept. 27, 2004, using the same B-52B mothership that once launched X-15 research aircraft in the 1960s. NASA photo by Tom Tschida.

Serving as a final in-flight check-out of the research vehicle and booster rocket combination prior to the actual launch and free-flight, the successful mission paves the way for launch day, tentatively scheduled for later this Fall. The flight also served to prime engineering, ground support and flight crews for the launch.

Plans for the X-43A's free-flight calls for the vehicle to fly at Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound. The second X-43A flight, on March 27, 2004, reached nearly Mach 7, landing the aircraft in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world's fastest air-breathing flight.

B-52B launch aircraft carrys X-43A hypersonic research vehicle
The high-risk X-43A project is led by NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., with NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, located on Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert, conducting the flight research.

Image left: NASA's B-52B lifts off with the X-43A, which remained mated to the B-52 throughout the mission. NASA photo by Tom Tschida.

View X-43A photos at:

Gray Creech
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center