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  Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne X-51

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Author Topic:   Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne X-51
kr4mula
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Posts: 599
From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 05-27-2010 09:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Air Force successfully flew its X-51A "Waverider" scramjet for the first time yesterday morning. It went around Mach 6 and flew for 200 seconds, or about 17 times longer than the X-43A, and more than all other scramjet flight times combined. Truly historic!

What does this have to do with spaceflight? If the Air Force gets scramjets practical, expect to see them for spacelift (NASP is back!) in the future.

Here is the Air Force press release on the flight.

X-51 Waverider makes historic hypersonic flight

An X-51A Waverider flight-test vehicle successfully made the longest supersonic combustion ramjet-powered hypersonic flight May 26 off the southern California Pacific coast.


Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Cassidy

The more than 200 second burn by the X-51's Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne-built air breathing scramjet engine accelerated the vehicle to Mach 5. The previous longest scramjet burn in a flight test was 12 seconds in a NASA X-43.

Air Force officials called the test, the first of four planned, an unqualified success. The flight is considered the first use of a practical hydrocarbon fueled scramjet in flight.

"We are ecstatic to have accomplished most of our test points on the X-51A's very first hypersonic mission," said Charlie Brink, a X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. "We equate this leap in engine technology as equivalent to the post-World War II jump from propeller-driven aircraft to jet engines."

The X-51 launched at about 10 a.m. from here, carried under the left wing of an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 Stratofortress. Then, flying at 50,000 feet over the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range, it was released. Four seconds later an Army Tactical Missile solid rocket booster accelerated the X-51 to about Mach 4.8 mach before it and a connecting interstage were jettisoned. The launch and separation were normal, Mr. Brink said.

Four X-51A cruisers have been built for the Air Force and the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) by industry partners Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Boeing.

Air Force officials intend to fly the three remaining X-51A flight test vehicles this fall, Mr. Brink said.

Air Force officials currently plan to fly each on virtually identical flight profiles, building knowledge from each successive flight.

Hypersonic flight, normally defined as beginning at Mach 5, five times speed of sound, presents unique technical challenges with heat and pressure, which make conventional turbine engines impractical. Program officials said producing thrust with a scramjet has been compared to lighting a match in a hurricane and keeping it burning.

"This first flight was the culmination of a six-year effort by a small, but very talented AFRL, DARPA and industry development team," Mr. Brink said. "Now we will go back and really scrutinize our data. No test is perfect, and I'm sure we will find anomalies that we will need to address before the next flight. But anyone will tell you that we learn just as much, if not more, when we encounter a glitch."

Mr. Brink noted while development of the X-51A's engine and the test program are complex, controlling costs has been a key objective. The team has incorporated or adapted existing proven technologies and elected from the outset not to build recovery systems in the flight test vehicles, in an effort to control costs and focus funding on the vehicle's fuel-cooled scramjet engine.

Mr. Brink said he believes the X-51A program will provide knowledge required to develop the game changing technologies needed for future access to space and hypersonic weapon applications.

kr4mula
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Posts: 599
From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 05-27-2010 12:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'd like to emphasize that this program originated with and was run/managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, which contracted out the engine to Rocketdyne and the airframe to Boeing, though both pieces owed their concept and architecture to legacy AFRL programs as far back as NASP.

garymilgrom
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Posts: 1571
From: Atlanta, GA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 05-27-2010 01:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is the scramjet engine visible in the photo of the X51?

mikej
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Posts: 374
From: Germantown, WI USA
Registered: Jan 2004

posted 05-27-2010 01:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Even in the high-res version of the photo at the linked article, it's hard to discern the engine. There's a slide show which provides somewhat better views and also provides a better sense of scale.

kr4mula
Member

Posts: 599
From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 05-28-2010 10:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are also a few YouTube videos that show some flight prep (including earlier captive flights), the launch, etc. Just search for X-51. Those have some better views of it.

fredtrav
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Posts: 913
From: Birmingham AL USA
Registered: Aug 2010

posted 08-14-2012 01:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the Washington Post, they are testing the X-51A today.


SpaceAholic
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Posts: 3023
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-14-2012 04:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nothing like having a futuristic capability being launched by a 50 year old airframe

Gonzo
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Posts: 374
From: Lansing, MI, USA
Registered: Mar 2012

posted 08-15-2012 05:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They did launch again yesterday afternoon. Another successful launch reaching mach 6+.

gliderpilotuk
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Posts: 3043
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 08-15-2012 10:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My understanding was that the X-51 was a key potential component behind "Prompt Global Strike" - a system that to deliver a precision (non-nuclear) strike anywhere in the world within one hour. As such, its potential contribution to spaceflight is peripheral, if not disingenuous, even assuming the technology works.

I can only imagine the uproar if the Chinese were developing such technology.

kr4mula
Member

Posts: 599
From: Cinci, OH
Registered: Mar 2006

posted 08-15-2012 11:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gliderpilotuk:
As such, its potential contribution to spaceflight is peripheral, if not disingenuous, even assuming the technology works.
While it's true that the X-51A has more direct application to a weapons system and this specific engine is too small for spacelift, the technology and knowledge of making the first really workable scramjet opens the door for a 2-stage reusable booster. While it's not as easy as just scaling the engine up 5 or 10 times to make a booster stage, at least the groundwork will be done.

SpaceAholic
Member

Posts: 3023
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-15-2012 11:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gliderpilotuk:
As such, its potential contribution to spaceflight is peripheral, if not disingenuous, even assuming the technology works.
There is nothing disingenuous... the DOD has always indicated the program is to support dual use application. The Chinese have been working an analogous capability for a number of years.

yeknom-ecaps
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Posts: 458
From: Northville MI USA
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 08-15-2012 06:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yeknom-ecaps   Click Here to Email yeknom-ecaps     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gonzo:
They did launch again yesterday afternoon. Another successful launch reaching mach 6+.

Not sure where you got your information but ....

CNN:
A hypersonic aircraft launched by the Air Force Tuesday (Aug 14) spiraled out of control and was destroyed before it could reach its goal of speeding to 4,600 mph, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The third test of the X-51A Waverider was launched Tuesday off the California coast from a B-52 modified bomber aircraft and was to fly for 300 seconds, reaching hypersonic speeds of Mach 6, but only flew for 16 seconds, according to the Air Force.

LA Times:
A closely watched test flight of an experimental aircraft designed to travel up to 3,600 mph ended in disappointment when a part failed, causing it to plummet into the Pacific Ocean, the Air Force revealed.

The unmanned X-51A WaveRider was launched over the Pacific Tuesday from above the Point Mugu Naval Air Test Range in a key test to fine-tune its hypersonic scramjet engine.

The aircraft was designed to hit mach 6, or six times the speed of sound, and fly for five minutes. But that didn’t happen. The engine never even lit.

About 15 seconds into the flight, a fault was identified in one of the WaveRider's control fins, and the aircraft was not able to maintain control and was lost.

All times are CT (US)

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