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British Consortium to test a Scramjet Engine Today

03/24/2006 9:20 AM

The Hyshot consortium of British companies will test a scramjet engine in Australia today.

The engine will be boosted to a height of 330km on a rocket. On the way back down, air passing through the scramjet will be compressed enough to ignite the fuel in the engine. If all goes well, the engine will run for about six seconds before crashing back to Earth.

Scramjet (Supersonic Combustion Ramjet) engines have no moving parts in the airstream. The shape of the air channel compresses and heats the air. Fuel is injected into the airstream and ignites due to the high temperature. Thrust is then generated by the expansion of the air following the combustion stage. In order for a scramjet engine to work, the air at the intake must be moving at about mach 5 to generate sufficient compression and heat for ignition to occur.

The scramjet is more efficient than a rocket engine in the upper atmosphere because it does not need to carry its own oxidizer.

A previous test of this engine in 2001 failed when the rocket carrying the engine went off course.

In the U.S., NASA has successfully tested a scramjet engine in its unmanned X-43 test aircraft, which reached top speeds of Mach 9.6 in November of 2004.

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#1

. . . test apparently went well

03/25/2006 4:52 PM

The Hyshot consortium reports that their scramjet test appears to have gone well. The scramjet was boosted to an altitude of 300 km, ignited, and traveled 400 km downrange before crashing into the desert almost exactly where predicted.

While it will take several months to analyze the data, the team was able to collect data during the entire flight and is optimistic about the results.

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