Not quite ready – WaveRider hypersonic test flight ends in failure

hypersonic waverider aircraft to be tested tuesdayDreams of long-haul flights taking a fraction of the current time crashed and burned along with the hypersonic plane itself on Tuesday as a test flight of the WaveRider aircraft ended in failure.

The plan had been to send the unmanned jet on a five-minute flight above the Pacific at speeds of up to 4,500 mph.

However, as the LA Times reported, some 15 seconds into the flight – before the WaveRider’s hypersonic scramjet engine even had a chance to fire up – a problem with one of the aircraft’s control fins was spotted. Before anything could be done, the plane lost control and ended up in the ocean.

The failed test will come as a bitter disappointment to those behind WaveRider’s development, including the US Air Force, Boeing and engine maker Pratt and Whitney. The project is financed by NASA and the Pentagon.

Charlie Brink, program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory, said in a statement on Wednesday: “It is unfortunate that a problem with this subsystem caused a termination before we could light the scramjet engine. All our data showed we had created the right conditions for engine ignition and we were very hopeful to meet our test objectives.”

hypersonic waverider aircraft to be tested tuesday launch

Following take-off from Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave Desert, a B-52 aircraft carried WaveRider to a height of 50,000 feet beneath one of its wings. After detaching from the B-52, a booster rocket engine was to have powered the aircraft across the sky, before separating to allow the hypersonic scramjet engine to fire up. But unfortunately it never happened.

It’s not the first time a WaveRider test flight has failed to go to plan – in June last year, the aircraft’s engine was forced to shut down due to an airflow problem.

Engineers working on WaveRider say the aircraft’s technology could be used in next-generation space aircraft, military aircraft, missiles, and passenger jets too – but first they need to make it actually work.

Following Tuesday’s failure, the future of the WaveRider program isn’t clear. What is certain, however, is that the reality of passenger flights between North America and Europe taking an hour seems as far away as ever.

Mobile

Midrange phones can’t do A.I., but MediaTek’s P90 chip aims to change that

MediaTek has announced the Helio P90 mobile processor, which it says will bring the best A.I. features we see on high-end smartphones, to the mid-range. We spoke to the company about the chip.
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Computing

Microsoft could split up search and Cortana in the next Windows 10 release

In the latest Insider preview build, Microsoft is exploring ways to split up Cortana and search on Windows 10. If Microsoft moves ahead with this change, we could see separate search and Cortana options in the Spring 2019 Update.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Emerging Tech

‘Crop duster’ robot is helping reseed the Great Barrier Reef with coral

In a world first, an undersea robot has delivered microscopic coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef. Meet Larvalbot: the robot "crop duster" which dispenses coral babies on troubled reefs.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.
Features

Cities looking to get smart take a lesson from an iconic shopping mall

From Disney World to the Mall of America, public venues are becoming microcosms for smart city projects. We dove into both, to show what government officials can learn – and what you can expect from your city.