X-51A to Ride the Waves Again


The fourth and final X-51A Waverider hypersonic vehicle is being prepared for a test flight set for late next spring or early summer, the U.S. Air Force announced on Wednesday. Investigators have also identified the likely cause of a failed flight two months ago.

Preliminary results from an investigation into what went wrong during the August flight indicate that a “random vibration issue” caused one of the control fins to deploy early, the X-51 program manager at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Charlie Brink, told reporters on a conference call.

“I can’t say conclusively that’s it, but it’s looking more and more like the cause,” Brink said, adding that investigators quickly ruled out a software or power malfunction as a cause of the aircraft’s break up.

The Waverider was designed to reach speeds of Mach 6 or above, six times the speed of sound and fast enough to zoom from New York to London in less than an hour.

Results from the investigation into the third aircraft’s failed test flight are expected to be complete in mid-December, Brink said.

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