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Air Force Sets Date To Fly Mach-6 Scramjet

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the let's-go-dutch-this-time dept.

The Military 252

coondoggie writes "The US Air Force said it was looking to launch its 14-foot long X-51A Waverider on its first hypersonic flight test attempt May 25. The unmanned X-51A is expected to fly autonomously for five minutes, after being released from a B-52 Stratofortress off the southern coast of California. The Waverider is powered by a supersonic combustion scramjet engine, and will accelerate to about Mach 6 as it climbs to nearly 70,000 feet. Once flying, the X-51 will transmit vast amounts of data to ground stations about the flight, then splash down into the Pacific. There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle, one of four built, the Air Force stated."

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Great step forward (4, Interesting)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311270)

The next generation in civilian transportation.

There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle

NY to Paris in 30 minutes! However, only one way tickets are allowed.

Re:Great step forward (2)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311550)

actually it's be more like 60 minutes, but i feel ya. we don't even have a commercial mach 2 service anymore.

just think, if flights were much shorter you could really cram people in. i know i could put up with being squeezed in a packed plane for 60 minutes to get to paris.

Re:Great step forward (3, Interesting)

OrangeCatholic (1495411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311792)

Indeed, I never figured out why the Concorde was banned in America. Unless it was purely for economic protectionism. Mythbusters tested sonic booms and they had to fly like 100 feet over a shed to blow out the windows. They started at 1000 feet and got no result. I think the Concorde flew a little higher than that.

Re:Great step forward (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32312082)

"not blowing out windows" and "highly annoying" are two totally different things.

Re:Great step forward (2, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311558)

Actually, there is a vast amount of data that could be applicable to civilian transport. If they can indeed get scramjets really working - and by really, I mean around five times fast as this bad boy, it could mean a DRASTIC price reduction to get things into orbit. A scramjet needs to get to about mach 25 to reach escape velocity, which is significantly faster than this test, but give it time. Let them run this thing, let them run data and the next one might be looking at another mach or two and so on.

A mach here, a mach there and soon you are talking real machs.

The first scramjet based engine that gets into orbit will be a milestone for space industry, exploration and all future generations to remember. Scramjets require a tiny fraction of the fuel (read: price) that a normal engine needs to achieve a similar speed, they just need to be going fast already to fire up, hence why all these test vehicles generally use attached booster rockets to get them up to a few mach. With luck, the day that space travel no longer requires massive solid boosters just got one day closer.

Re:Great step forward (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311646)

With luck, the day that space travel no longer requires massive solid boosters just got one day closer.

So not only will I get to go to space one day, but also do it going mach 25 and cheaply?

Are the g-forces a concern here? I noticed this was not a manned test flight. P.S - for any of the engineers reading this post I am willing to contribute a small poodle for testing.

Re:Great step forward (1, Informative)

Cheezymadman (1083175) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311708)

Without training, the average human can withstand 15-20 Gs for a few minutes without experiencing any ill effects (aside from nausea and such, obviously). That's horizontal Gs, by the way. Pure vertical force, you're looking at a max of 3-5 Gs before gray- and black-outs.

Re:Great step forward (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311738)

Without training, the average human can withstand 15-20 Gs for a few minutes without experiencing any ill effects

I doubt my mother in law could. Now there's a thought...

Re:Great step forward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32312116)

I am willing to contribute a small poodle for testing.

Your girlfriend isn't going to like that very much.

Re:Great step forward (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311776)

If you want the power output of a rocket engine you need your oxidiser to be concentrated, which is not going to be easy to do even at mach 6. After finally running the numbers a hydrogen/oxygen rocket may work out better.

Re:Great step forward (4, Funny)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311564)

There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle

They can't recover it because it already came back yesterday.
So the test flight will be a resounding, albeit puzzling, success.

Re:Great step forward (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311672)

Did it came back as a blue box?

Re:Great step forward (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312036)

There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle

Oh yes there is!

Row row row the boat, gently on the vast rolling Ocean...

Uh, nevermind.

Re:Great step forward (1)

Warlord88 (1065794) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311572)

There is no supersonic civilian transportation as of today. Economical hypersonic transport is still far, far away.

Re: Economical hypersonic transport (1)

Cmdrm (1683042) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311668)

I do believe that used to exist. For over thirty years the Concorde jet flew passengers at Mach 2 over the Atlantic. FYI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concorde [wikipedia.org]

Re: Economical hypersonic transport (1)

iPhr0stByt3 (1278060) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311822)

However, it was cancelled because the subsidies paid by the governments were getting rediculous. Yes, it flew passengers, but it NEVER was economical and when the time came to put in some serious maintenance costs they dumped the program.

Re:Great step forward (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311652)

I'm not sure it will do anything with civilian air transport. I don't see this as cutting air drag, which goes up to the fourth power as speed increases, and increases fuel consumption. It probably wouldn't go transcontinental because of noise & sonic boom issues.

Concorde tickets were $10,000 from NY to Europe and the operators often lost money flying it. The manufacturers lost money building the airplanes. A regular sub-sonic flight is $300. Unless scramjet can somehow manage to fly around $1000 a passenger, I don't know if it can really succeed. The extra expense could buy you more days of vacation, it's not going to buy you another day of a fixed length vacation, less time in the air.

Re:Great step forward (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311746)

Okay but compare business class NY to Europe. Concorde was still more expensive but on that route there are a lot of people who charge out more than they would spend to be on Concorde.

Re:Great step forward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311930)

$300?
I wish to buy as many tickets as you have. $600 for cattle class is normally a good price.

Re:Great step forward (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311662)

Don't count on it. The major focus now is to make travel less wasteful (not only making aircraft more efficient, also supplanting them with high speed rail where that's applicable...and where there's a will to do it). Perhaps in a few decades we might have something merely supersonic, with speeds comparable to Concorde, but also more compatible with the really real world.

This thing from TFA...mostly a nice first stage for orbital launches, I guess.

Re:Great step forward (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311980)

You could use it do a sub-oribital flight. There's no drag in space, and you'd get to your destination really fast.

Re:Great step forward (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312088)

But you still need lots of additional energy for a "hop" of appreciable lenght; pointing your nose up is not enough. Lots of additions / modifications...not that far from "first stage to orbit" that I mentioned. Plus quite small and expensive.

And all this in a world which seem to try being a bit more sustainable; with high speed communication networks more and more prevalent.

Re:Great step forward (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311832)

yeah! just like concor-um. nevermind.

Geotaggers, your mission should you choose to.. (5, Funny)

qwerty8ytrewq (1726472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311280)

..accept it, is to go and get this baby. It should fetch a good price on ebay. I can only imagine the difficulties of finding this craft in the Pacific Ocean, but if you could... Legend status is yours.

w000t yeah (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311282)

a mach 6 submarine sitting under the ocean ready for the picking!

thats a seriously fast plane, hope it goes well.

Re:w000t yeah (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311846)

or a chinese submarine, just waiting in the splash zone to pick up a piece of cutting edge US aerospace hardware.

Some Assembly Required (1)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311982)

Yeah, all several hundred billion pieces of it, after it smacks into the ocean. If the plane retains even a small fraction of the velocity it picks up in the test flight before impact, it's a goner.

Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311286)

So we built several multi-million dollar tests to chuck into the ocean?

Re:Umm... (1, Funny)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311296)

whoosh?

Re:Umm... (4, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311354)

In this case, it's splash!

Badass (1)

cloakedpegasus (1761746) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311312)

This sounds sick. I wonder if its going to be visible? Too bad its a one way trip.

Always money for military space projects (0, Offtopic)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311314)

  So little for civilian.

  Hopefully the tech will filter down sooner than later.

  I don't see much of a military need for this tech, however, when we've had military launch capability that could reach any location on earth well within a day, including the time it takes for authorization, for close to half a century.

  Short of a massive nuclear response to a nuclear attack, there simply isn't any application where it's necessary, and where time to better consider other options is a bad thing.

  But then again, we are probably on the verge of global resource wars amongst nations that have not.

  What a sad state our greed and short sightedness has brought us to. Our capabilities as a species have changed enormously in the last century or so, but our insight into ourselves has not.

SB

 

Re:Always money for military space projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311540)

  So little for civilian.

  Hopefully the tech will filter down sooner than later.

  I don't see much of a military need for this tech, however, when we've had military launch capability that could reach any location on earth well within a day, including the time it takes for authorization, for close to half a century.

  Short of a massive nuclear response to a nuclear attack, there simply isn't any application where it's necessary, and where time to better consider other options is a bad thing.

  But then again, we are probably on the verge of global resource wars amongst nations that have not.

  What a sad state our greed and short sightedness has brought us to. Our capabilities as a species have changed enormously in the last century or so, but our insight into ourselves has not.

SB

This would make an excellent deployment vehicle for spec ops and regular infantry.Deploying anywhere in the world in 45 minutes:priceless.

Re:Always money for military space projects (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311850)

Priceless?

Oh no this indeed does have a pricetag, many of them in fact and they are big. The US pays a lot of money for its armed forces, too much in my opinion. If we can criticize and cut into education for fiscal responsibility the military should be fair game too.

Re:Always money for military space projects (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312176)

Get back to me when the military becomes unionized.

Re:Always money for military space projects (4, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311568)

"We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. " -- Dwight D Eisenhower, 1961

Re:Always money for military space projects (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311634)

Prophetic indeed.

Those hundreds of electronic computers really beefed up government authority and took power out of the hands of individuals didn't they?
And the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop/garage, hasn't been able to come up with anything since 1961 right? That's why big government-contract-supported corporations like IBM have prospered while small start-ups have only failed.

Damn this military/government industrial-complex owned world, with all its electronic computers!!

Re:Always money for military space projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311866)

It's fun to joke around, but all the souls lost in American conflicts since 1961 is a high price to pay for Facebook on every mobile phone.

Re:Always money for military space projects (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312030)

1. My point was that the private sector and the garage inventor have thrived without any government/military help.
That couldn't be further from saying that Facebook on phones couldn't have happened without the military casualties over the last half-century.

2. If only those deaths were for the sake of technological development since the 60s; that would be much better than the grim reality that (for the most part) they were just a terrible waste.

Re:Always money for military space projects (2, Insightful)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311878)

While true government investment in research is vital for our growth and continued economic performance it is not solely responsible for it. The government did start the first internet, but it was business investment that also largely pushed the further development and refinement of the microcomputer.

The solitary inventor is largely pushed out of state of the art engineering. Like it or not much of science and cutting-edge research is a large, time-consuming and labor intensive practice that requires more work than a single man or woman can provide these days. Though it is still possible for a single person to "invent" something truly revolutionary it is exceedingly difficult and far more revolutions will come from organized large-scale efforts.

There also is the myth of the "Great Inventor" just coming up with an idea that revolutionizes the world and without whom that revolution would never have come. If you look at history, this is rarely the case as often many scientists are working on similar lines and the credited inventor is just the first to succeed. If they hadn't someone else would have; it might have taken longer and been slightly different but it would have come.

Re:Always money for military space projects (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311996)

I agree, I guess sarcasm really doesn't carry well in text.

Re:Always money for military space projects (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312000)

(But also as I mentioned above Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc, etc, were all start-up companies that became huge without any government support; R&D does need huge teams these days but opportunities for the little guy are greater than ever.)

Assasination (2, Interesting)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311576)

The purpose of the weapon is to assassinate [popularmechanics.com] :

Every strategist remembers Aug. 20, 1998, when the USS Abraham Lincoln Battle Group, stationed in the Arabian Sea, launched Tomahawk cruise missiles at an Al Qaeda training camp in eastern Afghanistan, hoping to take out Osama Bin Laden. With a top speed of 550 mph, the Tomahawks made the 1100-mile trip in 2 hours. By then, Bin Laden was gone -- missed by less than an hour, according to Richard A. Clarke, former head of U.S. counterterrorism.

Putting aside this strawman example, the idea of push-button assassination is terrifying. "Comrade, you will sell me your oil. Remember what happened to your predecessor?"

Re:Assasination (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311676)

scramjet diplomacy?

Re:Assasination (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311700)

With Predators and similar UAVs constantly patrolling the areas of interest in the future, that's probably unnecessary...

Re:Assasination (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311888)

Yeah but for that you need exact coordinates. It makes getting into a window where we know someone is easier but still wouldn't lead to what you're talking about. Might as well go off on satellite and laser technology for fear of the US deploying "Orbital Death Lasers."

Re:Assasination (2, Interesting)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312192)

No, that's what the railgun is for.

Re:Always money for military space projects (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311630)

I don't see much of a military need for this tech, however, when we've had military launch capability that could reach any location on earth well within a day, including the time it takes for authorization, for close to half a century.

Well within a day?
Because of the global war on terror, people in Bush's Administration proposed putting
conventional munitions on fucking SLBMs so we can have a worldwide response time in minutes.
IIRC, Congress repeatedly shot down the idea.

I'm not sure where the funding came from, but Obama/Gates have picked up the idea and run with it.
I'd much rather see the military "waste" money on scramjets than repurposing SLBMs/ICBMs.

Re:Always money for military space projects (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311754)

But then again, we are probably on the verge of global resource wars amongst nations that have not.

    What a sad state our greed and short sightedness has brought us to. Our capabilities as a species have changed enormously in the last century or so, but our insight into ourselves has not.

BTW, US seems to put itself in a, well, curious situation. With population so used to overconsumption relying on foreign resources (while largely preserving "domestic" caches of...the same resources), it's bound to end in confrontation sooner or later. Not saying that it will be very disastrous for the US, oh no - with the amount of resources wasted on "defense" (nice newspeak btw) industry, it should do reasonably fine; but it still might be nasty, also locally (and certainly when looking at humanity...); not a nice place to live.
Nasty enough so that, perhaps, it is better to live in a place which now can't get rid of its resources quickly enough (while using the income for sustainable growth); one which will be largely "worthless" in any possible resource wars of the future.
But is there such a place?

Reconnaisance (2, Informative)

jamrock (863246) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311772)

I don't see much of a military need for this tech, however, when we've had military launch capability that could reach any location on earth well within a day, including the time it takes for authorization, for close to half a century.

You're presuming that it's solely for weapons delivery. The first application that came to my mind was reconnaisance. It's all well and good to be able to deliver a warhead to "any location on earth well within a day", but intel as near-real time as you can get it is just as critical to the military, and the ability to get sensors over an area of concern as quickly as possible is immeasurably valuable. That's the reason the SR-71 Blackbird was built, and it performed it's mission admirably for decades.

Re:Always money for military space projects (4, Informative)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312042)

You have no clue... A mach 6 fighter/bomber would very much be useful in the armament. At that speed it can outrun most missiles used to shoot it down. Very few weapons platforms can track and engage an aircraft flying faster than mach 4 at the moment, let alone something flying mach 6. There are only a handful of missiles (surface-to-air or air-to-air) which can even travel mach 6 or faster, which means you can only attach from a forward vector and once it passes your position or is flying away from you, your missiles will not be able to catch the plane. This assumes that your radar system can even detect a plane that fast and can instruct the missile how to intercept the target.

Wait a minute.... (4, Interesting)

mikesd81 (518581) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311322)

There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle, one of four built, the Air Force stated."

I would suspect that there is some secret stuff in this plane....so unless it plans on breaking up into a huge fireball right before it hits the ocean.....wouldn't it be foolish to drop something like that and not retrieve it?

Re:Wait a minute.... (4, Interesting)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311364)

If it's going to hit the ocean anywhere near Mach 6 (3900+ MPH), it will be a huge fireball. At the very least it will disintegrate.

Re:Wait a minute.... (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311860)

maybe if you applied even the slightest modicum of thought to it, you would realise that air resistance will probably slow it down to terminal velocity on the 70000 ft drop into the ocean.

Re:Wait a minute.... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312074)

it will be a huge fireball

you've been watching too many bad movies. I doubt it will have enough fuel left to make much of a fireball, maybe you might get a pop as the vapour in the tank ignites.

At the very least it will disintegrate.

that it probably will do.

Re:Wait a minute.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311374)

At the speed it's going to be traveling it'll shatter into a billion pieces on impact with the water, not to mention a few explosions from the super hot parts hitting much colder water. There probably won't be much left to recover.

Re:Wait a minute.... (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311664)

There probably won't be much left to recover.

I bet that is what Batman thought when he flushed the plans to the Batmobile down the toilet. We all know how that turned out.

Re:Wait a minute.... (2, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311380)

to be honest, they have dumped and abandoned nuclear weapons in the ocean.
one plane wont worry the big cheeses

Re:Wait a minute.... (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311876)

I was actually thinking "Just what we need, MORE pollution in the ocean, and the American taxpayer is funding it."

Re:Wait a minute.... (1)

fyoder (857358) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312178)

wouldn't it be foolish to drop something like that and not retrieve it?

And what's to stop someone else from recovering it? I think I'll set up a saved search on Ebay for it. Wonder what it will go for?

Nuke Engines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311340)

We need to find a way to fit nuclear powered engines onto planes if we are to make a leap into next chapter of aviation.

Re:Nuke Engines (3, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311472)

Yeah so now every time a plane overshoots a runway we have a radiation leak...

Nuclear energy is great for things like space travel and for generating electricity. It isn't so great for earth-bound transportation where it could easily leak. Not to mention the restrictions on a plane. Who cares if it can go from New York to Paris in an hour if it won't be able to be landed in Paris due to the fact it has nuclear material...

Re:Nuke Engines (4, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311538)

nuclear...isn't so great for earth bound travel

quick! Nobody tell the Navy they've been using numerous nuclear powered aircraft carriers for earth bound travel for almost 50 years without incident!

Re:Nuke Engines (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311614)

Aren't you forgetting about nuclear subs? Quite a few incidents.

And airplanes not only are more prone to those, they also don't enjoy the comfort of generous weight budgets and being essentially buried after any accident.

All of this is beside the point though - experiments with nuclear aircraft propulsion were performed by both the US and Soviet Union (the latter apparently actually had it propelling an aircraft, at least partially). If there's one thing they have shown, it is that even with the small crew and lack of comfort of a bomber, radiation shielding is a major concern. You simply don't have enough weight budget for it.

Re:Nuke Engines (2, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311818)

quick! Nobody tell the Navy they've been using numerous nuclear powered aircraft carriers for earth bound travel for almost 50 years without incident!

Insightful? That's the US Navy, not a public or private corporation. Your sarcastic remark would seem to indicate that we could trust corporations to use nuclear technology to create transportation solutions for us.

Well if air travel is any indication, and the massive screw ups there with security theater, maintenance irregularities, cheap greedy bastards that would not outfit their planes with technology that could of prevented PanAm Flight 103, I doubt the airlines have the competency or the interest in our safety and security to pull off nuclear travel.

Sorry, if they can't afford to give me more than 6 fucking Styrofoam peanuts on a flight, I am not going to trust them to give me a nuclear plane flight either.

Of course, that is just the airlines. Car manufacturers could come in save us being paragons of humanitarian virtues and competence right? Hmmmm, maybe not. Well then we could trust the rail road system to.... Uh... Amtrack.... Huh.... Well maybe let's give a company not involved in transportation a shot at this.... Microsoft?

The reason why we don't have nuclear based transportation outside of a few dozen (at most) instances of military transports is that as a people and society we lack the responsibility, attention to detail, and competency to deal with something as dangerous as nuclear based power at that large of a scale.

Not that I am against nuclear power. Let's just be careful and limit it to reactors providing us the electricity where it would be a more manageable endeavor.

Personally, I am very inspired by Aluminum-Galium based power sources for travel that is extremely safe compared to the alternatives, and nuclear power is very appropriate to allow us an easy way to provide such an infrastructure to deliver refurbished AG power sources that can deliver on-demand hydrogen to transport vehicles.

Re:Nuke Engines (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311944)

Well then we could trust the rail road system to....

Supertrain! [tripod.com]

"Nuclear" trains quite feasible. . . (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312058)

Depending on how you define a "Nuclear" train, you could have a single, central, fixed location Nuclear power plant, and an electrified rail system (or wires, or a pair of superconducting rails, etc) to power the trains, so there's no reactor on the trains themselves - just electric motors, or maybe a mag-lev propulsion system, etc.

Re:Nuke Engines (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311718)

Now wouldn't that be ironic, a radiation leak in France, a country that quite happly tested nuclear weapons kilometers from a populated island in the South Pacific for decades. I don't think that they would have any right to complain if that did happen.

Re:Nuke Engines (1)

clegrand (1082829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311750)

We need to find a way to fit nuclear powered engines onto planes if we are to make a leap into next chapter of aviation.

That will happen about the same time as Duke Nukem Forever hits the shelves

Re:Nuke Engines (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312092)

We need to find a way to fit nuclear powered engines onto planes if we are to make a leap into next chapter of aviation.

Currently the only things we really know how to do with nuclear energy is heat stuff up (eg turn water to steam to make electricity) and blow stuff up (eg a bomb). Neither of those two things really work well in an airplane... the first is too heavy and the second is bad for business.

At least. (1)

baryluk (1319237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311368)

How long we have been waiting for this? 10, 20 years? It looks that designing, simulating and building was harder than it was initially projected.

And this is still prototype.

Re:At least. (1, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311530)

Dude, chill. Listen to some Jack Johnson. Watch a nice video. [youtube.com]

Re:At least. (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312026)

All of those douchebag "pseudo-campfire" musicians like Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, and John Mayer only serve to induce further rage on the scale of an incredible Hulk-out.

Wanna make us smile? Play some Cannibal Corpse or G.G. Allin.

Old Tech but New Challenges (2, Informative)

BrightSpark (1578977) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311370)

The concept is not new but it is very difficult to turn it into practice. These guys at University of Queensland and others have been working on this for several years and have trialled severa prototypes before. http://www.uq.edu.au/news/index.html?article=20718 [uq.edu.au] Not bad without military budgets - beat them to the punch!

Re:Old Tech but New Challenges (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311454)

Not bad without military budgets - beat them to the punch!

From your article:

"Published: 27 February 2010 ... Professor Boyce said the project represented the first phase of a 20-year program that ultimately would include ground testing, the development of new materials and flight testing at Woomera, South Australia"

From Wikipedia and the summary:

"Ground tests of the X-51A began in late 2006."
"The US Air Force said it was looking to launch its 14-foot long X-51A Waverider on its first hypersonic flight test attempt May 25."

Yeah...no.

Re:Old Tech but New Challenges (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311496)

gret qrqe0 qwr qwri qwr oqw qor qwr qwoeiroqiwr qwqw r foarirq

Re:Old Tech but New Challenges (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311798)

Just in case.. (1)

haploc (57693) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311594)

I know where my towel is!

Re:Just in case.. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311826)

I know where my towel is!

Do you think they have invented an infinite improbability drive? Or an SEP? I thought there was an SEP over there but I lost interest.

I will check back the next time England wins the ashes, if ever.

The Name Says It All (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311628)

If you want the jet to scram, send it into the ocean at Mach 6. Just hope it doesn't land on a ship.

About time..... (4, Insightful)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311642)

Does anyone else think it is odd that the fastest plane in the world is still the SR-71, which came into service in 1964.

Re:About time..... (4, Insightful)

El Capitaine (973850) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311724)

Or that we landed a man on the moon in 1969 and yet we no longer have that capability?

Re:About time..... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311768)

Or that cheese comes in a can? Wait, what were we talking about again?

Re:About time..... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311812)

Does anyone else think it is odd that the fastest plane in the world is still the SR-71, which came into service in 1964.

Aeronautical engineering is a mature technology. A typical Cessna aircraft won't have changed for 20 or 30 years either.

Would a faster SR-71 even be publicly known? (3, Insightful)

WoTG (610710) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311956)

If there was a plane faster than an SR-71, there's no guarantee that it would be public knowledge.

That said, a fast plane isn't as necessary for spying as it was in the 60's. Who knows what kind of crazy tech is out there doing the hard spy work now, the geek in me hopes that there's something more interesting than satellites...

Fast enough for anyone??? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311706)

6.40 times the speed of sound should be fast enough for anyone. ... it only needs to go a little faster now ...

5 min at Mach 6 = 350 miles (1)

blanchae (965013) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311808)

At that altitude, it should be moving just a little faster than 1 mile/sec. Hopefully, it will go where directed to - like North Korea...

Aurora (0, Troll)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311824)

What makes this interesting is the speculation surrounding the SR-91 Aurora. Due to treaties between the US and (at the time) USSR the SR-71 Blackbird had to be retired because manned intelligence flights were against the terms of the treaty.

Of course the treaty didn't say anything about unmanned flights and this is where the SR-91 [wikipedia.org] comes into it. This *might* be [wordpress.com] a picture of a SR-91 [wordpress.com] . The cockpit makes me wonder what I'm looking at, if it can be piloted/unpiloted. I don't know for sure. Kudos to Yankee engineering though, it looks fast.

The scramjet powering the test aircraft is one thing aside, the avionics to remotely control something this fast is what I'm interested in. The B2 bomber was criticised for being so far over budget [wikipedia.org] but it would be if two aircraft that share control system technology were being developed. Both would have inputs to computer controller flight surfaces. The game of subterfuge in military craft is fascinating especially when it the politicians that wear the heat for a failure that is actually, secretly, a success. I know, it's all speculation.

I reason that this might include deliberately understating the capabilities of craft such as this. The SR-71 engines are reported as most efficient at mach 3.5 but that doesn't indicate top speed - which is probably still classified - and the SR-91 (that officially doesn't exist) which may cruise somewhere between mach 3-6 reveals a lot about how quickly intelligence gathering about any part of the world can be done. Say a rough estimate of any part of the world within 3 hours, maybe there are things that just can't be done with a satellite?

It says much about the intelligence capability that the US doesn't readily advertise, and where that capability (that doesn't officially exist) is going when a prototype vehicle is aiming for Mach 6. Kudos for the Univerity of Queensland to for getting the first test engine going.

Personally - I just like fast planes ;-)

Re:Aurora (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312118)

Its not so clear that this has much military application. Its unlikely to be stealthy at that speed - aerodynamic heating will make it very obvious in IR. I suspect the efficiency isn't very good, and it needs a rocket for initial launch. I'm sure there are some cases where it would be preferable to a spy satellite, but I think the us has stopped using SR-71s because those cases are pretty rare.

I'd love to have scramjet technology for launch vehicles, but so far they seem to be single Mach number designs, so the don't work for that either.

My feeling is that there is a sort of technological no-mans-land between ~Mach 3 and sub-orbital trajectories.

I'm happy to see the research continue (I also love fast planes), but it really isn't clear how it would be used.

Re:Aurora (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32312124)

The linked photo is of a prop plane [wikimedia.org] used for the movie "Stealth". Sadly not a real aircraft, it does look like it'd be fast though!

Re:Aurora (2, Informative)

Libertarian001 (453712) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312150)

Seriously? Please tell me you're kidding. That's the F/A-37 Talon from the movie, "Stealth." I know it was a lousy movie, but, come on.

Re:Aurora (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32312164)

Someone mod this stupid peice of shit down. That's a prop from the movie stealth.

After the test... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32311954)

After the test, the jet will be baked. And then there will be cake.

No plans (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311966)

"There are no plans to recover the flight test vehicle"

Really? You want to just let a potential security threat sit around in the ocean for someone to salvage and copy?

Goddamn, let me call China right quick and let them know where they might want to start looking. If you're just going to leave it out there I might as well get paid to clean up your damned mess!

Re:No plans (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 4 years ago | (#32311990)

Yeah. Also, I find it hard to believe there would be no useful information in the condition of the actual hardware after the flight.

Seems like some engineers have been sitting behind screens and simulation models so long they've forgotten the real world exists.

Re:No plans (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312108)

Given the way that everyone has latched onto that fact, maybe it's been their plan all along. Say you don't want it, wait for someone to salvage it, then buy it back for a token amount. Maybe they're smarter than you think :)

Alternatively, maybe it's not going to end its flight where they say it is...

It's just like a model rocket! (0)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312112)

Buy / build a model rocket and shoot it off - never to come back. That was lots of fun when I was a child; supposedly they'd come back down on a parachute but that wasn't necessarily going to happen. We'd send all kinds of interesting balsa and cardboard creations into the sky and it was big fun.

The kids at the Air Force never got over it. Now their toys are bigger and much more expensive - but they're still fun to shoot off in a blaze of glory - never to be recovered. I love this country - and how our tax dollars get used.

More realistic threats (-1, Offtopic)

Max_W (812974) | more than 4 years ago | (#32312136)

How can we know that it is true? One may tell me that it is Mach-7 and I will have to believe.

Could Air Force do something simpler? Could Air Force develop a system to stop oil from gushing from the tube on the ocean floor? This oil spill may soon reach Europe and Africa and there is no technology to stop it. Let alone what is happening in Louisiana.

This how weak the technology really is. There are pseudo-patriotic lies and there is the reality. As Mao said: "Wisdom begins with accepting the reality."

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