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US to test fly hypersonic UAV on May 25

The X-51A WaveRider unmanned aerial vehicle. A Boeing Photo

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE (BNS): The X-51A WaveRider an unmanned scramjet demonstrator aircraft will undergo its maiden hypersonic flight test on May 25, US defence major Boeing has announced.

The unmanned aerial vehicle will take flight from the Edwards Air Force Base when it will be released from a B-52 bomber off the southern California coast.

The X-51A is expected to fly autonomously for five minutes powered by a supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) motor accelerate to about Mach 6 and transmit large amounts of data to ground stations before it splashes down into the Pacific and breaks up, as planned.

There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle, one of four built, Boeing said in a statement.

A similar flight test was conducted by NASA when it test flown the X-43 hypersonic scramjet-powered research aircraft in 2004. The aircraft had flown at a faster speed, but lasted only about 10 seconds and used less logistically supportable hydrogen fuel.

The X-51A WaveRider's launch next week will be its first flight test this year. Earlier, there were plans to test fly the vehicle in December 2009 and thrice in 2010.

A combination of factors, including high demand for flight-test and range assets such as the B-52, contributed to the pause, the Boeing statement said.

The X-51A WaveRider programme has been developed by Boeing in partnership with the US Air Force, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, NASA and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

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