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!
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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