Yesterday, AOL News' Sharon Weinberger reported on the Air Force's X-51A WaveRider, which completed what the Air Force called the "longest supersonic combustion ramjet-powered hypersonic flight to date" after being dropped from the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress above California's Andrews Air Force Base. During the flight, the X-51 hit Mach 6.
And how fast is Mach 6? One answer is that it's an estimated 3,000-plus miles per hour. Another is that it's this fast:
Named in honor of 19th Century philosopher and physicist Ernst Mach, the Mach number scale quantifies the velocity of an object going faster than the speed of sound. Calculating the miles per hour equivalent of a Mach number depends on a host of factors, including altitude, air temperature and atmospheric density, as NASA explains on their website:
The ratio of the aircraft to the speed of sound in the gas determines the magnitude of many of the compressibility effects. Because of the importance of this speed ratio, aerodynamicists have designated it with a special parameter called the Mach number...
As Weinberger reported, The Air Force says it hopes to employ the X-51A WaveRider technology for a new generation of missiles, satellites and spy planes.
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