X-51: A Square Peg in the Prompt Global Strike Round Hole?

Posted: June 17, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , , ,

The Air Force’s X-51 has failed.  Again.

So it appears that failure really is an option. 

This time the Rube Goldberg device’s fail happened earlier in the flight profile than the prior test.  How much earlier?  Before sustained scramjet engine ignition.

As one guy I knew was wont to say “I don’t think we’re really experiencing random failures.  Random successes, maybe…”

The second test of a U.S. Air Force experimental aircraft in Southern California ended prematurely this week just seconds after launch…

In the test that took place Monday, a B-52 took off from Edwards Air Force Base and flew to 50,000 feet near Point Mugu. Once there, the B-52 dropped the aircraft and it fell like a bomb for about four seconds before its booster rocket engine ignited and propelled the aircraft.

It was then supposed to separate from the rocket and speed across the sky, powered by an air-breathing combustion engine, but that didn’t happen. A momentary lapse in airflow to the engine caused a shutdown and the X-51 plunged into the ocean within the test range. The ocean landing was planned.

The 14-foot aircraft — which is designed to hit 4,000 mph — is being developed to give the Pentagon a new way to deliver a military strike anywhere around the globe within minutes.

Oh, it got an ocean landing all right.  And therein lays the problem of using hypersonics for PGS: it seems little more than a naked attempt to avoid using an ICBM.

"Obviously we’re disappointed and expected better results," Charlie Brink, the Air Force X-51 program manager, said in a statement. "But we are very pleased with the data collected on this flight."

While Rick and Ilsa may always have Paris, the PM will always have data.

  1. […] Instead, consider and take to heart the hypersonic PGS motto: failure actually is an option. […]

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