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Saturday’s test flight of NASA’s X-43A hypersonic test vehicle was a success: the vehicle reached a peak speed of Mach 7 and its air-breathing scramjet engine ran as planned for 11 seconds (limited by the small amount of liquid hydrogen fuel it carried.) The successful flight means that NASA will likely fly the third and final X-43A vehicle as soon as this fall, this time aiming for a top speed of Mach 10. As I previously noted, though, the future of NASA hypersonic research is uncertain after the agency cancelled the X-43C, the planned follow-on to the X-43A, earlier this month. However, the Dayton Daily News reports that the Air Force Research Laboratory will press on with its own program, the Single Engine Demonstrator, that could make unmanned flights at Mach 6-7 in 2008.

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