Space and astronomy news and information for the American Southwest. Coverage includes Vandenberg AFB rocket and missile launches.

X-43A Third Flight

2006 May 21

This page contains images of the record-breaking flight of NASA's unmanned X-43A research vehicle on 2004 November 16. Chase planes and a B-52 bomber carrying the experimnental craft departed Edwards AFB, crossed the coast near Santa Barbara, and flew offshore west of Los Angeles.

After release from the launch aircraft, a solid rocket motor accelerated the X-43A and sent it to an altitude of 111,000 feet. The rocket motor was jettisoned and a hydrogen-fueled scramjet engine powered the vehicle at about Mach 9.6 - a record for a jet-powered flight.

The X-43A, which cannot be recovered, then descended and made a series of turns before it plunged into the Pacific and sank.

The webmaster took several of these images while covering the flight from Edwards AFB for public radio.

Waiting for F/A-18 or B-52 / X-43A takeoff from Edwards AFB

The news media waits for the takeoff of the F/A-18 chase planes and B-52 / X-43A. News photographer Gene Blevins (on the ladder) looks down the runway for activity.

The B-52 / X-43A leaves Edwards AFB

The B-52 bomber carrying the X-43A takes off.

Closeup of the B-52 / X-43A leaving Edwards AFB

A close-up view of the B-52 / X-43A.

The B-52 / X-43A and chase planes head for the launch point

Aviation enthusiast Jay McKee drove to a high spot in Newbury Park to catch a glimpse of the B-52 / X-43A and chase planes. He captured this image of the aircraft flying offshore on their way to the launch point.

X-43A post-flight press conference

X-43A project manager Joel Sitz at the post-flight press conference at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.

X-43A solid rocket motor exhaust

Brian Vanderkolk of Stanton photographed an unexpected byproduct of the mission. Remnants of the exhaust from the X-43A's solid rocket motor (light wisps) catch the rays of the setting sun.

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