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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.
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Courtesy of NASA

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

NASA was testing one of its hypersonic vehicles on Saturday, June 2, 2000. Unfortunately, the vehicle and the rocket booster attached to it went out of control over the Pacific Ocean! Since NASA controllers couldn't control the vehicle, they had to blow it up! A signal was sent to the vehicle causing an explosion of the X-43A hypersonic vehicle and rocket booster. Debris fell into the ocean.

These hypersonic vehicles can fly at rocket speeds (hypersonic means at least five times the speed of sound!). The vehicle being tested on Saturday, the X-43A, was suppose to fly at speeds approaching Mach 7 before splashing into the Pacific Ocean. Mach 7 means that the X-43A would have been traveling at seven times the speed of sound!

The X-43A is one of three vehicles NASA is going to test. After NASA looks into this mishap, they 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.

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