reports that the maiden flight of their experimental X-43A hyper-X plane has ended in destruction of the X-43A.
Following pre-launch countdown and separation from the B-52, a malfunction occurred about five seconds after ignition of the Pegasus motor that caused the Hyper-X stack, X-43A Hyper-X plane and booster, to depart from controlled flight. The debris impacted within the pre-cleared range impact area in the Pacific Ocean.
There was no damage to property on the ground, and there were no injuries and no damage to the carrier aircraft. A team of qualified personnel is being formed to investigate the cause of the mishap.
This mission was the first of three flights to demonstrate an airframe-integrated, 'air-breathing' propulsion system design called a scramjet, which so far has only been tested in ground facilities, such as wind tunnels. The scramjet will be able to propel the X-43A up to speeds of Mach-7.
The NASA X-43A hypersonic research vehicle and its Pegasus booster rocket, mounted beneath the wing of their B-52 mother ship, had a successful first captive-carry flight on April 18, 2001. A dress rehearsal for the subsequent free flight, the captive-carry flight kept the X-43A-and-Pegasus combination attached to the B-52's wing pylon throughout the almost two-hour mission from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., over the Pacific Missile Test Range, and back to Dryden.
More pictures and detailed info on the X-43A Hyper-X plane and the B-52 mother ship can be found here
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