The Air Force let loose with an unmanned, experimental hypersonic jet yesterday, and watched it shatter all manner of record. The X-51 WaveRider tore across the Pacific at 3,500 mph, using a hypersonic engine that runs on air and uses virtually no moving parts. It stayed airborne for 200 seconds before falling into the ocean, making it the most successful hypersonic flight ever, the LA Times reports; every other attempt has lasted 10 seconds or less.
“Everything went very well for a first flight,” said the X-51 program manager. “This is truly transformational technology. It's as big of a leap as it was when we went from propellers to jet engines.” The Air Force has been trying to perfect hypersonic technology since the 1960s. A hypersonic passenger jet could travel from New York to LA in 30 minutes, but the WaveRider, which was launched from a B-52, is more likely to father a new, faster cruise missile. (Read more hypersonic plane stories.)