The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved funding for research on new technology that could one day allow planes to travel anywhere in the world within two hours.
The $25 million research project for the hypersonic X-43C Scramjet is part of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill awaiting full Senate approval. Boeing, the St. Louis-based aeronautics company, has been doing the technological research for the X-43 program. U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, R-Missouri, made the request for federal funding.
Rich Chrismer, communications director for Talent, said the program is important both for its cutting-edge technology and because of the potential for economic growth in Missouri.
"Senator Talent believes that the X-43 is one of our most exciting aerospace programs, and part of the reason it is so exciting is because the technology is being developed here in Missouri, at Boeing," Chrismer said.
Preliminary designs for the X-43C Scramjet will be due in February. A critical design review is scheduled for fall 2006, Chrismer said.
George Orton, program manager for the hypersonic design and application in Boeing's Phantom Works unit, said the first X-43C flight could take place as early as 2010. Boeing is developing the 12-foot long plane for NASA.
"The application first is probably for the government, and then potentially later on it could be used commercially," he said.
Boeing used the same type of Scramjet technology on its X-43A, which it tested last November over the Pacific Ocean. During the test, the unmanned X-43A broke speed records for air-breathing engines by flying about 7,000 miles per hour. Orton said the plane reached Mach 9.8, or 9.8 times the speed of sound. Before the X-43A, such speeds had only been reached by rocket engines.
"This is technology for the future, and the X-43 is just the next step to take us a little bit closer," Orton said. "We're very excited about it."
Orton said Boeing has been working on hypersonic technology since 1986. The X-43 series is part of a 10-year project by Boeing and Alliant Technology Systems, the company that manufactures the planes after Boeing designs them.