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article imagePentagon confirms X-51A WaveRider test flight a failure

By Anne Sewell     Aug 16, 2012 in Science
Point Mugu Nawc - According to the U.S. Air Force, a test mission on Tuesday of an unmanned hypersonic plane, the X-51A WaveRider, was a failure.
The X-51A WaveRider hypersonic aircraft was hoped to travel at six times the speed of sound. However, the Pentagon has reported today that the test run was unsuccessful.
According to Times Live, the aircraft broke apart over the Pacific Ocean seconds into a military test flight due to a faulty control fin.
Charlie Brink of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio made a statement that, "It is unfortunate that a problem with this subsystem caused a termination before we could light the scramjet engine."
The Air Force did not release any official comment on this exercise until a day after the test, where the WaveRider was scheduled to soar for around five minutes. Only now do they finally acknowledge the failure of the test.
According to Wired's Danger Room, the WaveRider “failed its flight test” and suggested that “a fin problem caused a loss of control [before] the engine could kick in. However, they did not cite their sources.
AviationWeek.com also filed a report on Wednesday, quoting sources saying that the test mission “was not a success.”
They quoted the Air Force's statement as follows:
"The X-51A Waverider successfully launched from an Air Force B-52 bomber over Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range Aug. 14 at approximately 11:36 a.m. PST.
The X-51 safely separated from the B-52 and the rocket booster fired as planned. However after 16 seconds, a fault was identified with one of the cruiser control fins. Once the X-51 separated from the rocket booster, approximately 15 seconds later, the cruiser was not able to maintain control due to the faulty control fin and was lost.
"It is unfortunate that a problem with this subsystem caused a termination before we could light the Scramjet engine," said Charlie Brink, X-51A Program Manager for Air Force Research Laboratory. "All our data showed we had created the right conditions for engine ignition and we were very hopeful to meet our test objectives."
Program officials will now begin the process of working through a rigorous evaluation to determine the exact cause of all factors at play.
One of the four X-51A vehicles remains. AFRL officials have not decided when or if that vehicle will fly at this time."
The Pentagon had hoped that the X-51A would be able to sustain around five minutes in the sky at a speed of Mach 6, or roughly 4,300 miles per hour. Apparently no craft of its type has come close to achieving that goal in the past. A WaveRider tested in June 2011 was only able to sustain a speed of Mach 5, and for only half of the time.
It is hoped that once the WaveRider or a similar hypersonic craft has successfully completed testing, it could then be used by the Air Force to send supplies, servicemen and even missiles to anywhere in the world within minutes.
More about Pentagon, X51A, Test flight, Failure, waverider
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