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Experimental aircraft speeds to more than 3,000 mph in test flight

 The unmanned X-51A WaveRider, which resembles a shark-nosed missile, was launched midair Wednesday off the coast near Point Mugu. It sped westward for 240 seconds, reaching Mach 5.1, or more than five times the speed of sound, before plunging into the ocean as planned.

The X-51A, built and tested in Southern California, was powered by an air-breathing engine that has virtually no moving parts. It flew for longer than any other aircraft of its kind and traveled more than 264 miles in little more than six minutes.

A passenger aircraft traveling at that speed could easily fly from Los Angeles to New York in less than an hour.

"It was a full mission success," Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate, said in a statement."I believe all we have learned from the X-51A WaveRider will serve as the bedrock for future hypersonics research and ultimately the practical application of hypersonic flight."

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