Hypersonic flight set for next week

Nov. 10, 2004 at 1:44 PM
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HAMPTON, Va., Nov. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. space agency is preparing for the launch of a rocket-assisted jet so fast it would cover a coast-to-coast flight in 20 minutes.

Known as a "scramjet," NASA intends to break the aircraft speed record next week, for the second time in 7 1/2 months, by flying its X-43A scramjet craft 110,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean at speeds close about 7,200 mph, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

That's 10 times the speed of sound or Mach 10.

The hypersonic experiment will last an estimated 10 seconds before the pilotless aircraft falls into the water some 850 miles off California.

More scramjet flights are in the works. Next year U.S. and Australian armed forces will also try for a Mach 10 flight as part of an effort to use scramjets to launch satellites. And within five years the U.S. Air Force aims for a scramjet-driven cruise missile fast enough to drive explosives deep into hardened targets.

Similar projects are underway in France and Japan.

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