X-51A Waverider Takes First Captive Flight

X-51 Waverider
X-51 Waverider


The U.S. Air Force X-51A WaveRider vehicle yesterday successfully made its first captive carry flight under the wing of a B-52 carry aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The X-51A is powered by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) company.

The X-51A is expected to demonstrate hypersonic flight up to six times the speed of sound in test flights beginning early next year. The X-51A program is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), The Boeing Company and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

A captive carry flight, in which a test vehicle is attached to and carried by another aircraft, is a common approach for testing a new type of aircraft before it flies on its own.

“The successful captive carry flight keeps the X-51A team on track for a major breakthrough in propulsion technology and the realization of scramjet powered flight,” said George Thum, X-51A program manager, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

“This was a great day for the program,” said Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager, Air Force Research Laboratory. “The early look is we successfully captured all of our test points without any anomalies. I’m really proud of the AFRL, Air Force Flight Test Center and the Boeing/Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne teams’ efforts to move us toward the big event.”

During test flight, the B-52 took off heading north, climbed to 50,000 feet and performed gentle maneuvering.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Inc., a part of Pratt & Whitney, is a preferred provider of high-value propulsion, power, energy and innovative system solutions used in a wide variety of government and commercial applications, including the main engines for the space shuttle, Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, missile defense systems and advanced hypersonic engines.

Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, space propulsion systems and industrial gas turbines. United Technologies, based in Hartford, Conn., is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the global aerospace and commercial building industries.