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

X-43A Completes Captive-Carry Flight

Brian Webb

2004 February 1

NASA successfully completed a dress rehearsal for this month's flight of its unmanned X-43A research vehicle. A B-52 bomber carrying the X-43A/Pegasus booster combination left Edwards AFB, California last Monday afternoon at 15:21 PST, crossed the coast, and flew a predetermined path over the Pacific Missile Test Range. The B-52 and chase aircraft later returned to Edwards and landed at 17:28 PST.

The X-43A stack consists of a large solid fuel rocket tipped with the X-43A hypersonic research vehicle. Since this was a captive-carry mission, the stack remained attached to a pylon on the B-52's wing for the entire two-hour flight.

The mission was a dress rehaersal for a launch of the X-43A tentatively set for February 21st. The flight will evaluate supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) technology.

During last Monday's captive-carry mission, Ventura County residents spotted contrails and heard radio communications from the B-52 and chase aircraft.

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