NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
X-43A aircraft. Computer artwork of the unpiloted X-43A aircraft, or Hypersonic Experimental Vehicle (Hyper-X), in flight high in the atmosphere. It will test the first scramjet-powered jet engine to work at hypersonic speeds, those over 5 times the speed of sound (Mach 5). Scramjet (supersonic- combustion ramjet) engines, which work at Mach 7- 10, could be used in hypersonic aircraft or reusable spacecraft. Unlike rockets, which must carry both fuel and the oxygen in which it burns, scramjets use oxygen from the air scooped up as the aircraft flies, increasing potential payload. Initial rocket propulsion is needed to reach oper- ating speeds. The X-43A is operated by NASA, USA.
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