It Wasn’t the Scramjet

Air Force and industry officials are still analyzing data from the May 26 flight test of the X-51A hypersonic air vehicle in order to find out what cut short the vehicle’s flight. Initial indications are that the X-51’s supersonic combustion ramjet was not at fault. “From what we could see in the data, I think it’s safe to say that the engine was not the cause of the failure,” Charlie Brink, USAF’s X-51 program manager, told reporters Tuesday during a teleconference. He added, “It was humming along.” In fact, the X-51’s scramjet ran longer than any other engine of this type in history. But after about 200 seconds of scramjet burn, the vehicle began to slow down due to some still unexplained anomaly and had to be terminated so that it wouldn’t start to tumble and venture off of the test range.