Shop Windows to the Universe

Arches National Park Geology Tour provides an extensive, visually rich description of the geology of Arches, by Deborah Ragland, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This image shows the X-43A hypersonic vehicle. Clicking on this image will show the trajectory the X-43A was suppose to take including air drop from the B-52 plane, ascent by the Hyper-X booster, seperation from the booster and the X-43A free flight.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA

Hypersonic Vehicle Plummets into Pacific Ocean
News story originally written on June 5, 2001

One of NASA's three hypersonic vehicles was suppose to enjoy its first free flight on Saturday, June 2, 2000. The X-43A vehicle was dropped along with its Pegasus rocket booster from a B-52 bomber plane. The plane took off from Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, CA. After the X-43A and booster rocket were dropped, the rocket was to boost the X-43A to ~100,000 feet before releasing the X-43A for its first free flight. Unfortunately, just a few seconds after ignition of the rocket, a malfunction occurred, causing the X-43A and the booster rocket to go out of control! The flight had to be terminated for safely reasons, so a signal was sent to the vehicle triggering an explosion that destroyed the X-43A and rocket booster. The debris fell into the Pacific Ocean. No injuries or ground damage were reported.

These hypersonic vehicles can fly at rocket speeds. Once the X-43A was released from its booster rocket, it was suppose to fly at speeds approaching Mach 7 before splashing into the Pacific Ocean. During this free flight time, the X-43A would have been powered by its own specialized engine, called a scramjet (standing for supersonic-combustion ramjet engine).

Saturday's mission was the first of three such free flight missions for these Hyper-X vehicles. After much investigation of this mishap, NASA will go ahead with the other two flights. Although none of the planes will be recovered (all are scheduled to splash into the ocean), data collected during the flights will be used to build future vehicles that could be used in future space exploration. The X-43A was only 12 feet long with a 5-foot wingspan, but someday hypersonic space traveling vehicles may be over 200 feet long!

Last modified June 5, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes books on science education, classroom activities in The Earth Scientist, mineral and fossil specimens, and educational games!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

HESSI Awaits Launch

HESSI stands for High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager. HESSI stands to provide data that would help scientists make great strides in understanding solar flares. HESSI will study where flares occur on...more

HESSI Awaits Launch (Updated!)

The launch of solar satellite HESSI has been postponed indefinitely! When the Pegasus rocket designed to boost the X-34A hypersonic vehicle went out of control on June 2nd and had to be blown up, NASA...more

1999--A Year in Review...

It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more

STS-95 Launch: "Let the wings of Discovery lift us on to the future."

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:19 p.m. EST, October 29th. The sky was clear and the weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit for the Unitied...more

Moon Found Orbiting Asteroid

A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more

U.S. is Fed Up with Russia

Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials are demanding an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting...more

More on Recent Coronal Mass Ejection

During a period of about two days in early May, 1998, the ACE spacecraft was immersed in plasma associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME). The SWICS instrument on ACE, which determines unambiguously...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA