X-51A Hypersonic Test Ends With Crash

An X-51A WaveRider Hypersonic jet failed its test today with a big splash in the Pacific Ocean.

The Air Force said that the X-51A WaveRider was dropped from an Air Force B-52 bomber this morning above the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center. The Hypersonic jet cruised for about 16 seconds before a faulty control fin caused the jet to drop into the Pacific.

The Air Force said in a statement:

“Once the X-51 separated from the rocket booster, approximately 15 seconds later, the cruiser was not able to maintain control due to the faulty control fin and was lost.”

The plane crashed before the “scramjet” engine, which is capable of propelling the WaveRider at more than five times the speed of sound, was turned on.

Charlie Brink, program manager for the project, told the AFP:

“It is unfortunate that a problem with this subsystem caused a termination before we could light the Scramjet engine… All our data showed we had created the right conditions for engine ignition and we were very hopeful to meet our test objectives.”

ABC notes that the X-51A Hypersonic Jet has had two previous successful tests. Two years ago, the WaveRider traveled at more than five times the speed of sound. The Air Force was hoping to improve on that mark during today’s test.

Today’s failed X-51A Hypersonic test leaves the Air Force with just one WaveRider jet left. It’s unclear when the Air Force will attempt another test with the plane.