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Final X-43 flight a success
Posted: Wed, Nov 17, 2004, 7:31 AM ET (1231 GMT)
X-43A launch on second flight (NASA/DFRC) The last test flight of the X-43A, an unmanned vehicle designed to test hypersonic technologies, was declared a success by NASA late Tuesday. The X-43A was launched at 5:34 pm EST (2234 GMT) Tuesday by a Pegasus-derived booster carried aloft by a B-52 aircraft off the California coast. During the flight the X-43A reached a top speed of about Mach 9.6, making it the fastest flight of an air-breathing aircraft. The vehicle then glided to a crash landing in the Pacific, as planned. The primary purpose of the vehicle was to test scramjet engine technologies; while engineers involved in the program said it would take months to analyze their data, it appears that the X-43's scramjet performed well. The flight was the last of three test flights in the X-43 program, and perhaps the last NASA-supporte hypersonic flight program for years to come. A follow-on program to the X-43A, the X-43C, was cancelled by NASA earlier this year as the agency refocuses its technology development efforts on the exploration vision. Tuesday's mission was also the last flight for NASA's B-52 aircraft, which has been used for a variety of programs for nearly a half-century, including the X-15.
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