Arrival at Edwards

The first X-51A scramjet engine demonstrator vehicle arrived at Edwards AFB, Calif., on June 25. It is a static test unit that will be used in ground testing starting July 6 in preparation for the X-51A flight test phase this fall. The X-51A is an Air Force Research Lab-led effort to demonstrate air breathing hypersonic propulsion using a supersonic combustion ramjet built by Pratt & Whitney. This type of propulsion is considered potentially game changing in enabling the design of ultra-fast missiles and strike aircraft to attack time-sensitive targets at great distances or to allow for rapid, reusable space access. Boeing is the lead contractor. The first X-51A flight test is slated for late October in the Point Mugu Sea Range off the coast of southern California. For the flight tests, a B-52H will carry aloft the X-51A air vehicle plus its host rocket booster. Upon release from the B-52, the solid-fueled booster will propel the X-51A to speeds of nearly Mach 5, at which point the scramjet will ignite and propel the X-51A for several minutes more to speeds around Mach 6. (Edwards photo caption by Mike Cassidy)