X-43A Mission Takes Off
At 12:40 p.m. PST on March 27, 2004, the second X-43A hypersonic research aircraft and its modified Pegasus booster rocket left the runway, carried aloft by NASA's B-52B launch aircraft from the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Plans call for launch of the Pegasus booster from the B-52 at about 2 p.m. PST to accelerate the X-43A to its intended speed of Mach 7.
Image right: NASA's B-52B launch aircraft takes off carrying the second X-43A hypersonic research vehicle on March 27, 2004. Credit: NASA/Tom Tschida.
The experimental, unpiloted 12-foot-long scramjet-powered vehicle will be dropped from the wing of the B-52B, boosted to nearly 100,000 feet altitude by the booster rocket, and released over the Pacific Ocean to briefly fly under its own power at seven times the speed of sound, almost 5,000 mph.
The flight is part of the Hyper-X program, a research effort designed to demonstrate alternate propulsion technologies for access to space and high-speed flight within the atmosphere. It will provide unique "first time" free flight data on hypersonic air-breathing engine technologies that have large potential pay-offs.
NASA' s Dryden Flight Research Center