Boeing Waverider Test Jet Crashes
The Boeing X-51A “WaveRider,” an ambitious new unmanned hypersonic test jet, has once again failed in a trial run, crashing into the Pacific Ocean during an attempt to meet Mach 5 speeds. A failure of a control fin caused the experimental scramjet to spiral out of control before the engines fired, sending it headlong into the realm of Poseidon.
The jet would be a marvel of technology if it would just work. The joint Air Force, DARPA, NASA, Boeing, and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne project has failed three times in experimentation. The aircraft is designed to reach speeds of Mach 6, about 4,000 miles per hour, at its peak. It completed its first successful flight in May 2010 and currently holds the record for longest time spent over Mach 5. The most recent trial run was to have the jet hold the speed for five minutes.
The plane’s nickname, “WaveRider,” originates in the fact that it makes use of its own hypersonic shockwaves to add to its lift. After being dropped from a B-52 from around 50,000 feet, the plane makes use of a solid rocket booster to carry it up to around Mach 4. That booster is then dropped and the scramjet takes over, accelerating the aircraft to speeds of Mach 6. It was during the booster jettison that the most recent experiment failed.