WaveRider hypersonic flight slated for Tuesday
The WaveRider unmanned hypersonic test vehicle is set to make its third flight over the Pacific Ocean this week, with engineers planning for a 5-minute flight at Mach 6, or more than 4,500mph. The WaveRider uses similar technology as the Defense Department's Falcon HTV2, which flew earlier this summer but ended its flight early when the aircraft's skin started separating from the airframe due the high heat in flight. The WaveRider will be carried on a B-52 bomber to 50,000 feet, then released and propelled by its own rocket to Mach 4.5. After the rocket detaches, a scramjet will accelerate the drone the rest of the way to Mach 6 before gliding into the Pacific Ocean. While such a vehicle could whisk passengers across the U.S. in just 45 minutes, military officials envision using it to launch drone missile strikes with a far faster response than is currently possible. For example, a failed 1998 strike on Osama Bin Laden that took 80 minutes to execute would only have taken 12 minutes to hit its target with a hypersonic drone. The Pentagon and NASA have three separate hypersonic research projects in the works, and have spent $2 billion in the last decade trying to bring the new technology to reality.