Speed feat

Published: Friday 30 April 2004

A B-52 bomber (above) unleashe (Credit: NASA)An unmanned supersonic jet has startled the world with a flight speed seven times more than that of sound (Mach 7). The us' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (nasa) successfully tested the x-43 a supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet), which flew at a speed of 7,700 kilometres per hour. The scramjet carried hydrogen fuel and scooped up oxygen from the air, making it a potentially effective vehicle.

But the real importance of this ground-to-space launch lies in its coming within six weeks of the Russian prototype test of a hypersonic manoeuvring vehicle in lower space. If controlled in lower-earth space, there is virtually no stopping the jet from its target, thus nullifying any air or missile defences along the way. This is what Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed when the country tested its vehicle. These inventions only bring the world closer to space warfare, ushering in a whole new arms race in this century.

On the bright side, the thought that a space plane would cover the distance between Europe and India within 30-odd minutes may not remain just a flight of fancy!

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