November 16, 2004 3:22 PM PST
Rocket plane breaks airspeed record
The test of the X-43A "scramjet" was the third and most ambitious test of a series. The second test reached 5,000 miles per hour, while the
NASA researchers declared the test, which was aimed both at testing the capacity of the supersonic engine and the performance of the vehicle at the extremely high speeds, a success.
The engine differs substantially from an ordinary jet engine, which typically uses internal rotors to help compress air. The scramjet works more like a simple duct, taking in air through a large opening and funneling it through a much narrower passage.