NASA X-43A: The Fastest Aircraft Ever Built


Convair NB-36 flyingNASA X-43A is an unmanned experimental hypersonic aircraft designed by NASA. It is the fastest aircraft ever built, currently holding the fastest flight speed record. NASA has been officially recognized by the Guinness World Records in 2005 for setting the highest speed record for a jet-powered aircraft, when X-43A reached the speed of 10,461 km/h (7,000 miles per hour) or 8.4 times faster than the speed of sound.

NASA X-43A uses a drop launch method: it is lifted into the air by a larger aircraft and then dropped. The initial energy for propulsion is provided by a booster rocket, which is discarded when the aircraft reaches its target altitude and speed. From that moment, the X-43A is powered by its own jet engine. The aircraft uses a scramjet engine, a variant of a ramjet air-breathing jet engine in which combustion takes place in supersonic airflow.

The record-breaking X-43A didn’t survive its historic flight – about 10 seconds into its flight it crashed into the Pacific Ocean, which was planned.

Technical characteristics of the NASA X-43A

Length: 12 ft / 3.66 m
5 ft / 1.52 m
Approx. 3,000 lbs / 1400 kg
Propulsion: Dual-mode ramjet/scramjet
S-band (approx. 700 parameters measured and transmitted)