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Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

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Update: Hypersonic Aircraft Crashes During Test Flight

August 15, 2012, 11:07 PM
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We were working the phones yesterday to try to find out the status of the U.S. Navy's test flight of the X-51A Waverider, an aircraft that engineers designed to travel at 4,500 miles per hour. As we noted, that's five times the speed of sound, and about 117 times the speed of Usain Bolt in full sprint! Moving this fast, one could go from New York City to London in about one hour. 

Spokespeople at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base were suspiciously mum, and now it turns out that was for a good reason: the unmanned craft broke apart and crashed into the Pacific mere seconds after its rocket booster started. A "faulty control fin," was the cause of the failure, according to a statement recently released.

It's disappointing, as this hypersonic jet is a promising innovation. 

How does it work? The aircraft is equipped with a revolutionary scramjet engine. The engine rapidly pulls in the oxygen needed to burn the fuel it uses from the atmosphere. This animation, courtesy of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, shows everything:

Read more at Pratt & Whitney

More from the Big Idea for Wednesday, August 15 2012

Today's Big Idea: Hypersonic Travel

The Internet "cult of now," as Big Think blogger Dominic Basulto describes it, is the only "measure of time that matters to the current Internet generation." In other words, the demand for instant... Read More…

 

Update: Hypersonic Aircraft...

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