The second of three X-43A hypersonic research aircraft, shown here in its protective shipping jig, arrived at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, on January 31, 2001. The arrival of the second X-43A from its manufacturer, MicroCraft, Inc., of Tullahoma, Tenn., followed by only a few days the mating of the first X-43A and its specially-designed adapter to the first stage of a modified Pegasus® booster rocket. The booster, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Va., will accelerate the 12-foot-long, unpiloted research aircraft to a predetermined altitude and speed after the X-43A/booster "stack" is air-launched from NASA's venerable NB-52 mothership. The X-43A will then separate from the rocket and fly a pre-programmed trajectory, conducting aerodynamic and propulsion experiments until it impacts into the Pacific Ocean. Three research flights are planned, two at Mach 7 and one at Mach 10 (seven and 10 times the speed of sound respectively) with the first tentatively scheduled for early summer, 2001. The X-43A is powered by a revolutionary supersonic-combustion ramjet ("scramjet") engine, and will use the underbody of the aircraft to form critical elements of the engine. The forebody shape helps compress the intake airflow, while the aft section acts as a nozzle to direct thrust. The X-43A flights will be the first actual flight tests of an aircraft powered by an air-breathing scramjet engine.