An unmanned U.S. experimental aircraft broke apart over the Pacific Ocean seconds into a test flight, the U.S. Air Force said.
The special aircraft was designed to hit mach 6, or six times the speed of sound, and fly for five minutes. But that didn’t happen. The engine never even lit.
“It is unfortunate that a problem with this subsystem caused a termination before we could light the Scramjet engine,” Charlie Brink, the X-51A program manager, said in a statement. “All our data showed we had created the right conditions for engine ignition and we were very hopeful to meet our test objectives.”
The aircraft broke apart and fell into the Pacific Ocean near Point Mugu northwest of Los Angeles, said Daryl Mayer, a spokesman for the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
The WaveRider is not carrying weapons, but is designed to pave the way for hypersonic weapons. NASA and the Pentagon are financing hypersonic flight research in three national centers across the country, calling the technology “the new stealth” for its capability to outrun enemy fire, KTLA reports.
After Tuesday’s failed test, there is just one remaining X51-A aircraft, the Air Force said. It is not yet known if or when it will make a test flight.