The X-51A Waverider – New York to London in less than an hour
Washington Post – The Waverider is a hypersonic combustion ramjet created to, as the name suggests, ride its own shockwave to achieve speeds as high as Mach 6. The vehicle is unmanned and autonomous, according to an Air Force fact-sheet.
The almost-wingless craft, which resembles a shark, is not a weapon system prototype. But the technology could offer breakthroughs relevant to space travel, hypersonic weapons, surveillance and reconnaissance, and could otherwise give the United States an opportunity to sharpen its competitive edge when it comes to intelligence-gathering.
The combustion engine burns oxygen in the atmosphere, eliminating the need for large fuel tanks. The engine on the Waverider was designed by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, while the heat shield technology was designed by Boeing, the Phantom Works division which conducted overall “air vehicle design, assembly and testing for the X-51’s various component systems.” On the government side, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have been collaborating with the private-sector contractors.