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Transportation Technology

Boeing's X-51 WaveRider Jet Crashes In Mach 6 Attempt 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the unscheduled-water-landing dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Boeing's experimental hypersonic X-51 WaveRider aircraft crashed today during an attempt to hit Mach 6 while traveling over the Pacific Ocean. The cause of the crash was a faulty control fin, which compromised the test before the Scramjet engine could be lit. A vehicle traveling at Mach 6 (six times the speed of sound) would be able to travel from New York to London in just one hour."
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Boeing's X-51 WaveRider Jet Crashes In Mach 6 Attempt

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  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @04:43PM (#41001403)

    ...there were no survivors.

  • What's the hurry? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xzvf (924443) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @04:51PM (#41001497)
    It takes 2-3 hours to get through security at the airport, and 1-2 hours to get bags and transportation at the other end, plus an hour commute time to the hotel. I'd rather have a big plane with a lay flat bed, and show up the next morning.
    • Re:What's the hurry? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by KiloByte (825081) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @04:58PM (#41001605)

      And what about individual rooms on a Zeppelin?

      • by sjames (1099) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @05:20PM (#41001891) Homepage

        Personally, I think that would be a great way to travel. Not necessarily a private room, but a nice recliner with leg room, a table and some entertainment would be good.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          And hot-looking female flight attendants in miniskirts would be best for topping it off.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            and you would pay 10 times the price of a first class airline ticket for that?

            • by Grishnakh (216268)

              Well, no, not personally. Besides, a Zeppelin shouldn't be that expensive; it's slow, and the fuel consumption should be low compared to a jet (it doesn't have to burn fuel to generate lift, only thrust). Part of what you're paying for with a jet ride is the speed.

            • If you can afford 1st class it's really worth looking into, especially if considering more than one seat. With a smaller plane many more airports are open to you, including all the ones without the security theatre. You arrive find your pilot in the lounge and you are on up in the air a few minutes later.

              There is a reason airlines are reducing and eliminating their 1st class cabin on domestic routes (though they usually call their business class "domestic first class" or some such). Most of the 1st class se

    • by alienzed (732782) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @04:59PM (#41001609) Homepage
      It doesn't matter anyway, they won't let you through security with the warhead you'd need to make that kind of speed worthwhile.
      • It doesn't matter anyway, they won't let you through security with the warhead you'd need to make that kind of speed worthwhile.

        Actually, they will [sfgate.com]. They'll just poke and prod it a bit uncomfortably before letting you through.

    • by Shompol (1690084)
      They need to develop a hypersonic TSA machine that comes with it. The new machine will irradiate large batches of passengers with non-lethal doses of alpha, beta and gamma rays simultaneously, and would be able to strip search everyone flying to London in just one hour.
    • by Dahamma (304068)

      The types of people who can afford to fly on a hypersonic jet (ticket prices would make the Concorde look like a value airline) don't wait 2-3 hours with the cattle to get through security or catch a cab.

      • The types of people who can afford to fly on a hypersonic jet don't wait 2-3 hours with the cattle to get through security or catch a cab.

        Exactly right!

        Those people are too busy watching the hypnotic pattern their vital organs make as they thoroughly paint the passenger capsule while twined loosely in Versace linen.

    • Re:What's the hurry? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hadlock (143607) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @05:33PM (#41002079) Homepage Journal

      I have family that lives near Fredricksburg, Texas. About 10 times a year (nearly every month!) we drive the 5.5 hours, and then drive home about 5.5 hours. Google Maps says it's only 4.3, but eventually you need to get out and stretch your legs, country stop lights, etc.
       
      So finally I graduated and got a real job, announced "this time we're going to fly, since it's only a 40 minute flight from Dallas to San Antonio, and another hour by car! We'll save at least four hours!"
       
      Yeah. About that.
       
       

      • Wait for mom to arrive to carpool to airport.
      • Drive time to airport
      • Park at airport
      • Walk to security
      • Go through security
      • Wait at gate for 45 min - 1 hour
      • Board
      • Wait to leave gate
      • Taxi
      • Actual freakin' 40 minute flight
      • Taxi to gate
      • Wait for everyone to unload their overhead luggage and deplane
      • Walk to car rental place
      • Flag down a rental person
      • Wander the parking lot looking for our rental
      • Drive another hour to our destination
      • Finally arrive.

      Total transit time: 7 hrs 15 minutes. We've driven the 5.5 hour journey ever since.
       
      Now, I fly about 2-3 times a year, but my mother doesn't. Neither do many of the people flying airplanes on any given day. You could speed up the process, be like the guy "up in the air", but that sort of efficiency just isn't realistic for "trip to grandma's with mom".

      • The usual estimate is that if you can drive it in 5 hours, it's faster to drive than fly commercially. However, if your time is worth a lot -- and you won't save money doing this but you will save time -- you could buy a small airplane and get your pilot certificate. Small airplanes do about 100-120mph in a straight line and there are typically small airports within 20-ish miles of anywhere on both ends, so as long as your relatives are willing to pick you up at the far end you could have more like a 2 1/

        • Those are low speeds for some of the more recently-built craft. An acquaintance bought a plane recently for about $100K which, while limited on features, cruises at about 150 knots and maxes out a little under 180 knots. It's a fun plane to fly, though I can't land it myself since I don't have tail-wheel training. It's also limited on cargo and has only two seats, but since it's just him and his wife, jumping out to Las Vegas or Sacramento (where his parents live) isn't tough to do and doesn't take long.

          • by Zordak (123132)

            but since it's just him and his wife, jumping out to Las Vegas or Sacramento (where his parents live) isn't tough to do.

            Man, you have some hard core friends. I'm curious how the plane gets down, though.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        If there's a bunch of you traveling together, you need to try chartering a small plane from a local airport. There's likely a small airport closer to where you live than DFW, there's no TSA security, and there's likely another small airport much close to your destination than San Antonio's, and it doesn't take 4-8 people long to deplane. It's probably too expensive for 1-2 people, but if you've got 4-8, it might be economical, and it'll definitely be very quick.

      • Re:What's the hurry? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @07:24PM (#41003501) Homepage Journal

        But the 1 hour 45 minutes waiting, and the flight, can be spent reading, or watching a movie.

        we live in an era of entertainment everywhere.

        I'm not telling you flying is better, only pointing out there are other possible benefits.

      • by antdude (79039)

        Don't forget the total cost too.

  • How curious... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @04:56PM (#41001561) Journal

    It's always a little strange to see the 'New York to London' figure given for something that is fairly clearly intended for blunt-force diplomacy, not passenger travel.

    We ditched the Concorde years ago because there weren't enough customers to make flying that fast economic.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @05:34PM (#41002093)

      "It's always a little strange to see the 'New York to London' figure given for something that is fairly clearly intended for blunt-force diplomacy, not passenger travel."

      Lest we forget, US has fought two wars against Britain, which killed thousands more American civilians than any aggressor since.

      The only thing keeping the Brits in their box is DETERRENCE!!

    • It's always a little strange to see the 'New York to London' figure given for something that is fairly clearly intended for blunt-force diplomacy, not passenger travel.

      Yeah, shouldn't the canonical flight-time be from the Hauge to London?
      what, too soon?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Yeah, you would thing Germany to London would be a better example~

      Better planes and technology may make it more cost effective.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @04:57PM (#41001591)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-15

    First flew in 1959. Reached Mach of 6.04 at one point. Had a pilot in it, not just a drone.

    • that was done at the edge of space where the air is almost nonexistent. It was basically a spacecraft at that point, not an airplane.

      I didn't RTFA but I'm guessing the Waverider is being tested at much lower altitude to study hypersonic dynamics and scramjet efficiency and stuff.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @05:13PM (#41001803) Journal

      It's not about flying that fast, it's about operating a supersonic combustion engine to produce positive net thrust. Anyone can stick a rocket on the back of a tube and fly fast, but you have to carry all of your oxidizer with you (or use a monopropellant). With this you just carry the fuel and let the shock transition form the compressor for your jet engine. Of course, it's not quite that simple, since you can't slow down the flow to be subsonic and still achieve + thrust, so you've got to make combustion occur in a flow that's faster than the speed of sound.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Somebody in another forum told me the scramjet engine only has a 2x thrust to weight ratio (much less than any decent rocket engine) so the technology isn't promising. Do you know if there is any theoretical argument on why that could not be improved? Also could a scramjet be used as a more effective "afterburner" stage on some other type of engine for subsonic or merely supersonic (but not hypersonic) aircraft?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Scramjets are only efficient to operate aver Mach 3 to 4. They need that level of speed since they get all of their compression from shaping the incoming flow. While the thrust to weight ratio is worse than a rocket but its specific impulse is greater it can fire for much longer than a rocket since it only needs to carry fuel and not oxidizer. The thrust to weight ratio is pretty much fixed by the flow velocity and combustion thermodynamics.

          • by timeOday (582209)

            Scramjets are only efficient to operate aver Mach 3 to 4.

            Well, that's what I meant by using it as the final stage of another engine that gets the air up to mach 3.5 and then blows it over the scramjet which then spits it out the back at mach 7 or whatever. If the plane only needs to go mach 0.8, you wouldn't have to accelerate that much air to get the required thrust, if you were accelerating the air by so much.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The X-15 was a rocket-powered aircraft. This is a Scramjet, and it's a technology demonstrator. It's not about the speed, it's about developing the technology to achieve workable Scramjet designs.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Mach 6 at the edge of space is a different speed the mach 6 at a lower altitude.

      M=V/a

      V being Velocity, and a being what ever you are travelling through.
      For more details, .. you know where to go.

  • Why is this obviously Not Gonna Happen concept *constantly* trotted out in regards to hypersonic flight, when writers should be acknowledging that such meaningful (ie, passenger and cargo) flights will never happen.

    • by Baloroth (2370816) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @05:13PM (#41001807)

      when writers should be acknowledging that such meaningful (ie, passenger and cargo) flights will never happen.

      "Never" encompasses a very long period of time, and should almost never be used in speaking about technology. I'm sure 250 years ago people would have also said it would never be possible to communicate with another person on the other side of the planet in real-time, and yet here we are.

      • by Nutria (679911)

        Yet scientists/engineers have learned a hell of a lot in 250 years, among them (a) what kind of shapes are required to successfully pass Mach 1, and (b) how much extra energy is required to double from Mach 1 to Mach 2 and then double again to Mach 4.

        Bog standard humans have learned at what point the extra speed isn't worth the stupendous extra cost.

        This is why civilian aircraft reached their approximate speed peak 55 years ago with the Boeing 707 and has settled around 0.85 Mach 44 years ago with the Boein

        • by ppanon (16583)
          As Grishnakh pointed out [slashdot.org], travelling through evacuated tubes, probably using maglev trains, is the best technological candidate for public super/hypersonic transport since it removes the friction losses from air resistance that make supersonic flight cost prohibitive. There would nevertheless still be some ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and pumping costs in maintaining a sufficiently high vacuum.
          • by Nutria (679911)

            Some monitoring and maintenance? The problems, just off the top of my head, of a suspended-in-the-middle-of-the-sea scheme which would need to be high enough to pass over the highest peaks yet deep enough to not be affected by wave action are:
            (a) multiple ocean currents shearing it,
            (b) the weight of the cables would be stupendous,
            (c) the pressure on the 3,000 mile long tube at 1,000 m would be 1470 psi,
            (d) salt water is *very* corrosive,
            (e) one manufacturing or construction mistake and the high pressure wa

            • by ppanon (16583)

              Actually, I agree with you on (a)-(f). The advantages of using a subterranean tunnel, which is implied in my post, is that it's much less externally exposed to terrorist actions and, while the pressure would be huge under the ocean floor, more of the pressure could be redistributed into/supported by the surrounding rock with the obvious remaining problem being tectonic plate boundaries. Of course, digging tunnels through rock just makes your last point, expense, even more relevant.

              However, suppose EMCC mana

    • by fotbr (855184)

      A warhead could be considered a kind of cargo on a one-way trip, signature not required. Depending on who you're talking to, a scramjet powered cruise missile might be very meaningful.

  • "While the hypersonic flight test didn't go very well, we're making excellent progress in artificial coral reef dispersion."
  • by ThorGod (456163) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @05:07PM (#41001709) Journal

    They include that bit about "from LA to NY in one hour" so that people can grasp how fast the speed is.

    It isn't meant to make you conjure up a day where you'll be flying that speed. It isn't meant to sell you on an airline ticket in the future...it's simply a way to communicate speed to a broader audience. Anything you think of beyond the raw speed involved is *you* day dreaming.

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      "New York to London in just one hour"

      Woops, got the reference wrong! :P

      • by sconeu (64226)

        Please, that's not canonical units.

        How many football fields per fortnight is it?

    • by Nutria (679911)

      It isn't meant to make you conjure up a day where you'll be flying that speed.

      Except that somewhere along the way, some lib arts major misunderstood that.

    • The SR-71 flew from its base in Palmdale, CA to Dulles in an hour, about 2,600 miles for its final retirement flight, about 10 years ago. It was operational in the 1960's. I got to look at one up close in the 1970's. Coolest. Plane. Ever. NY- London is about 3,400 miles. So we have improved, what, about 20% in the last 50 years? And we still can't get it right?
  • The FLIGHT time is 1 hour, down from 5ish hours. You will still have 2 hours of crap security and airport "stuff" to do on either end. This is not a game changer for intercontinental flight. It's not like there's legions of people screaming "If you can get me there in an hour I'll pay a million dollars!" Concorde failed for a reason.

    • by spauldo (118058)

      A lot of people can't visualize 4,300mph. Saying, "New York to London in an hour" makes it easier to visualize.

      For me, it's about two weeks' worth of driving per hour. I'm not sure how you would visualize it.

      Considering this is an unmanned drone, any passengers would have to be strapped to it. Somehow I doubt anyone willing to try that would have been the same type of customer the Concorde was designed for (but probably the type of customer padded rooms were designed for).

  • Am I the only one who doesn't see why suborbital point-to-point isn't a thing? Anywhere on the planet in 90 minutes, and less air resistance on the way.
    • by spauldo (118058)

      I know the U.S. Marines were interested in a suborbital deployment system, where they could put marines on your doorstep anywhere in the world in a couple hours' notice.

      I'm not sure where I read about it (probably here, actually), but it's been a while.

  • Sad that they didn't even get to fire the scramjet. If they are still having this much trouble it may put to bed rumors of a scramjet operating in the 90s. I'd still love a good explanation for the contrails, the cotton balls with a string through ones. They haven't been seen before or since so it was obviously some kind of military test. The most logical still would be a scramjet given the pulse nature of the trails.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday August 15, 2012 @06:13PM (#41002601)

    At 6x the speed of sound, no-one can hear your baby scream.

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