The unmanned hypersonic researcher craft traveled more than 230 nautical miles in just over 6 minutes Wednesday over the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range off California before crashing into the ocean as intended, an Air Force release said.
The X-51A took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress before being released at about 50,000 feet.
A solid rocket booster took the X-51A to about Mach 4.8 at which point the craft's scramjet engine ignited and accelerated it to Mach 5.1 -- about 3,880 miles per hour -- at 60,000 feet.
Scramjet stands for supersonic combustion ram jet, which has no moving parts; fuel is mixed with air rushing into the combustion chamber at supersonic speeds and then ignited.
"It was a full mission success," Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory, said in a statement. "I believe all we have learned from the X-51A Waverider will serve as the bedrock for future hypersonics research and ultimately the practical application of hypersonic flight."
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