May 5, 2013
A lightning-quick experimental aircraft made history when it sped more than 3,000 mph above the Pacific Ocean in a test flight, reigniting decades-long efforts to develop a vehicle that could travel faster than a speeding bullet.
The unmanned X-51A WaveRider, which resembles a shark-nosed missile, was launched midair Wednesday off the coast near Point Mugu. It sped westward for 240 seconds, reaching Mach 5.1, or more than five times the speed of sound, before plunging into the ocean as planned.
The X-51A, built and tested in Southern California, was powered by an air-breathing engine that has virtually no moving parts. It flew for longer than any other aircraft of its kind and traveled more than 264 miles in little more than six minutes.