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NASA's hypersonic research aircraft that broke the world speed record in March 2004. It flew at Mach 5, just over seven times the speed of sound, or about 8 000 kph. The experimental craft, which is 3.56 m long, was launched from a converted B-52 bomber on top of a Pegasus booster rocket off the coast of southern California. It flew on its own power for six minutes, reaching an altitude of nearly 30 500 m.

The X-43A, known as a ramjet or scramjet, burns hydrogen mixed with oxygen from the atmosphere. Heavy fuel tanks are not needed. The first X-43A flight, on 2 June 2001, failed after its Pegasus rocket veered off course.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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