Boeing X-51 (Waverider)
United States (2010)
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The Boeing X-51 Waverider product is a pioneering effort in the realm of SCRAMJET engines.
Detailing the development and operational history of the Boeing X-51 (Waverider) Scramjet Technology Demonstrator. Entry last updated on 4/25/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
A scramjet engine ("Supersonic Combustion RAMJET") - a concept initially developed in the technology evolution of the 1950s - makes use of incoming air (via an air intake) through extremely high-speed flight, the air being slowed prior to combustion . An inlet body manages the supersonic compression to which fuel is then injected during the combustion process and a nozzle manages the outgoing supersonic exhaust, therefore producing the required thrust. A scramjet, therefore, is related to a "ramjet" in its general approach though, in a ramjet engine, combustion occurs in subsonic airflow as oppose to supersonic. A scramjet can provide speeds rated in Mach values - even as high as Mach 12 - and is a future alternative to the conventionally-powered turbofan engines in wide-scale use today. One of the key limitations of modern scramjet technology is the lack of low-altitude, low-powered capabilities which require the airframe to be airlifted though use of a "host" / "mother" ship for its launching. From there, the scramjet must also be first brought to speed by way of a rocket booster.
The X-51's scramjet powerplant makes use of the same fuel as in the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, designated in the USAF inventory as "JP-7". The X-51 is hauled into the air by the host ship (B-52) and then air-launched. The X-51 initially utilizes the power of a modified Lockheed Martin MGM-140 ATacMS (Army Tactical Missile System) solid rocket booster to help clear the host ship and reach initial speeds (approximately Mach 4.5). Once the booster system is spent, the assembly is jettisoned, allowing the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne SJY61 scramjet to take over in helping the airframe reach speeds nearing Mach 6. The aerodynamic principles involved in the X-51 fuselage design then react to the naturally-occurring shockwaves to add required lift (hence the nickname of "Waverider"). The fuselage consists of a well-sloped nose cone assembly, streamlined nearly-rectangular fuselage and short stubby wings about the design. An air intake is identified under the fuselage with the scramjet exhausting through the rear of the design in a conventional fashion. In essence, the X-51's configuration is similar to that of a streamlined cruise missile ala the "Tomahawk". Despite its unmanned design, the X-51's project data may very well be applied to all manner of future aircraft still to come - such as a scramjet-powered civilian airliner.
The X-51 sports a running length of 25 feet with an empty weight of 4,000lbs. Its presented operational range is 460 miles with a service ceiling of 70,000 feet.
As of 2013, the X-51 is still in active testing.
Any available statistics for the Boeing X-51 (Waverider) Scramjet Technology Demonstrator are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).
Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
This entry's maximum listed speed (3,604mph).
Graph average of 3750 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the Boeing X-51A (Waverider)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.