Boeing's X-51A WaveRider Scramjet has had its share of bad luck. While its first test flight in 2010 went fine, the two that followed ended with unsatisfactory plops. Now, the USAF has just completed the fourth and final test, and the result was a screaming 370 seconds of scramjet glory and literally hypersonic speeds.
According to Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager for the Air Force, the mission was "a full success." And though the Mach 5.1 , hypersonic speed isn't itself a record (that was reached in the WaveRider's first test) the scrammy's 260-mile, six-minute trip was the most successful—and longest—test of the engine. Moreover, it was huge improvement over those last two failures.
After its high-speed flight, the X-51A crashed into the Pacific Ocean—as intended—ending the series of flights; there's no more X-51As left, and no plan for what's coming after. Still, the trip was awesome and the footage is a joy to behold. Hopefully they'll find a way to strap a camera on the next model. [USAF via CNET]