Popular Science Honors Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne for Powering X-51A WaveRider

Dec 06, 2010, 12:20 ET from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Dec. 6, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The current issue of Popular Science magazine honors Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and its partners for achieving major advances in aerospace technology with the Mach 6-capable X-51A WaveRider vehicle.  Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) company.  Popular Science hailed the X-51A WaveRider hypersonic vehicle as among "The Best of What's New in 2010," noting that the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne-powered vehicle "flew for almost 20 times as long as any previous scramjet engine."

"We're gratified by the recognition from this respected publication," said George Thum, X-51A program manager at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.  "Our most recent test flight in late May achieved a number of scientific milestones and supports our belief that hypersonic flight will have important military, commercial and space travel applications where speed is critical."

The X-51A program is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

Unlike a conventional jet engine, a scramjet has no moving parts.  Airflow is supersonic throughout a scramjet as the vehicle's speed through the atmosphere creates compression that a conventional jet engine produces with a series of fans and stages.  Supersonic refers to speeds above the speed of sound, or Mach 1, about 768 mph, while hypersonic speeds are greater than five times the speed of sound.

In a May 2010 test flight, the X-51A was released over the Air Force's Pacific Test Range by a B-52 flying at Mach 0.8 and 49,000 feet.  A solid rocket motor ignited, boosting the WaveRider vehicle to approximately 60,000 feet, and creating the airflow that the scramjet needs to operate.  When the rocket motor jettisoned, the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne SJY61 scramjet engine ignited and the X-51A accelerated and maintained stable, controlled flight.

The 210-second flight set a record for sustained air-breathing hypersonic flight with conventional hydrocarbon fuel.  During the flight, data transmitted to the ground added to knowledge about the scramjet's performance and thermal protection and flight controls. The second of four test flights is planned for early 2011.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a part of Pratt & Whitney, is a preferred provider of high-value propulsion, power, energy and innovative system solutions used in a wide variety of government and commercial applications, including the main engines for the space shuttle, Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, missile defense systems and advanced hypersonic engines.  For more information about Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, go to www.prattwhitneyrocketdyne.com.

Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, space propulsion systems and industrial gas turbines. United Technologies, based in Hartford, Conn., is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the global aerospace and commercial building industries.

SOURCE Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne