B-52 aloft with X-51A
This image from December shows the X-51A in the air attached to the B-52, marking the first of its two captive flights. That trip was to check out the communications and telemetry systems, as well as the B-52's handling with the Waverider aboard.
In its autonomous flight Tuesday, the X-51A is expected to transmit "vast amounts of data" to ground stations. A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft also will relay telemetry data to people on the ground.
Expectations are that the X-51A program could lead both to hypersonic weapons--think of a cruise missile, but faster--and to cheaper space planes as eventual follow-ons to the soon-to-be-retired space shuttles.
May 24, 2010 2:23 PM PDT
Photo by: U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Cassidy
| Caption by: Jonathan Skillings
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