NASA X-43: This was the small plane that approached the speed of Mach 10
The speed record for a powered aircraft is held by the extremely powerful X-43, a small craft created by the POT and that it approached the speed of Mach 10 in 2004. It officially reached Mach 9.6, about 11,852 kilometers per hour.
It was his third flight, and it was scheduled for November 16, 2004, over the Pacific Ocean, west of California. The unmanned craft reached an altitude of 33,500 meters, achieving Mach 9.6.
For comparison, the previous record was for a ramjet-powered missile, which barely exceeded Mach 5, while the highest speed for a rocket-powered aircraft was the X-15 flown by William “Pete” Knight, reaching Mach 6.7. .
The NASA X-43A (as its official name) was part of the Hyper X program, with a value of 230 million dollars.
The agency explained that the ramjet worked by “subsonic combustion of fuel in a stream of air compressed by the forward speed of the aircraft”.
The difference with a normal jet engine is that in this, the compressor section (fan blades) compress the air. “Ramjets,” NASA noted, “operate from about Mach 3 to Mach 6.”
The path to the NASA X-43 record
To get to the record flight of the X-43, you also have to go through previous failures. The Interesting Engineering portal remember that the first flight attempt of the spacecraft occurred in June 2001, and failed because the booster rocket did not work as planned.
In the second test (March 2004) it was possible to reach Mach 6.8, and in the third, the successful one, in November 2004, the X-43 reached Mach 9.6.
This was his last flight. Two more vehicles were planned, being canceled in 2004 for a change in the strategic objectives of the agency, now with space exploration as its goal.
But it was established as part of the Guinness World Records the achievement of the X-43 of the North American agency, a very important step in the history of aerial technology.