The University of Queensland's scramjet program got a huge boost
Monday with the Queensland Government announcing that it was
contributing $2 million (US$1.46 million) towards its research.
Speaking from a meeting with Boeing's top executives in Chicago
today, Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for State
Development, Trade and Innovation Anna Bligh announced that the
University of Queensland's Centre for Hypersonics is one of 13
recipients who will receive a National and International Research
"The grant will allow the Centre to build advanced scramjet
prototypes and undertake prolonged flight tests at speeds of over
Mach 8 - more than eight times the speed of sound," Ms Bligh
Scramjets -- supersonic combustion ramjets -- work by harnessing
the air pressure generated by motion through the air at supersonic
speeds to ingest large amounts of oxygen which mixes with hydrogen
fuel, generating engine thrust. Conventional jets have to use
spinning fans to compress the oxygen in air to a high enough
pressure for combustion.
The Centre for Hypersonics launched a segment of a Scramjet for
the first time in 2002.
"In the past fortnight the Centre achieved two successful
liftoffs at the Defence testing range at Woomera in South
Australia," Ms Bligh said.
"The experiments, HyShot(TM) III and HyShot(TM) IV, involved
collaboration between UQ and high-level international agencies.
"HyShot(TM) III achieved combustion using a prototype scramjet
part- developed by the British Ministry of Defence. It aimed to
reach Mach 7.6 -- a speed of almost 8000km per hour. HyShot(TM) IV
was a commission from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency."
She said if the technology could be made viable, scramjets could
replace rockets launching satellite communications, given their
greater efficiency in terms of not having to carry their own oxygen
in liquid form.
"The technology also has potential for hypersonic travel down
the track, with a flight from Sydney to London taking several
hours," Ms Bligh said.
"Although scramjet powered passenger jets are still a long way
off, according to UQ researchers, it might be possible to have a
scramjet powered vehicle within the next 10 years or so, for
example, that could carry vital organs for urgently needed medical
transplant operations," Ms Bligh said.
She said because scramjet technology literally runs on air and
hydrogen and emits only water during its travel, it is more
environmentally responsible than some current rocket technology
which often uses hydrocarbon or solid chemical fuels which can
pollute the atmosphere.
"The University of Queensland will develop the scramjet
prototypes in collaboration with Boeing and the Commonwealth
Department of Defence's research arm, the Defence Science and
Technology Organisation. The collaboration announced today with
Boeing will result in design and flight testing of advanced
hypersonic aerodynamic and propulsion technologies.
"One of the issues they'll try to overcome is the sheer amount
of heat generated by the new technology, with the engine producing
temperatures of greater than 2,000 degrees Celsius," Ms Bligh
"They'll also work at trying to develop a scramjet capable of
seven to 10 minutes of free flight over 1000 kilometres."
The National and International Research Alliances grant is part
of the Innovation Projects Fund -- one of the new funds of the
recently announced $200 million (US$146 million) Smart State
Innovation Funding Program which aims to build world-class research
facilities, attract top-quality scientists to Queensland and
stimulate cutting-edge research projects.
"The Queensland Government has invested nearly $3 billion
(US$2.19 billion) in innovation, science and research since 1998. I
think this demonstrates our deep and ongoing commitment to
maintaining Queensland's reputation as the Smart State," Ms Bligh
Boeing has committed funding of $2 million (US $1.46 million) to
support the University of Queenland's Centre for Hypersonics. Ms
Bligh met with Boeing executives today to discuss the aerospace
giant's investment in Queensland, including this collaborative
agreement between the University of Queensland and Boeing, the
details of which are still being finalized.
"With the level of experience and success that both Boeing and
the University of Queensland have in demonstrating hypersonic
technology, our collaborative efforts could very well open new
frontiers in aerospace," said Dr. Bob Krieger, president of Boeing
Phantom Works, the advance research and development unit of the
On the X-43A Hyper-X program, in 2004 Phantom Works and NASA
successfully conducted the first-ever free flights of an operating
scramjet engine integrated with a hypersonic airframe, achieving
speeds of Mach 7 and Mach 10. Phantom Works is teamed with the
Advanced Systems group of Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems
business on a number of other hypersonics projects, including this
collaboration project with UQ.
Boeing employs 3,500 people in Australia, with 75 percent of its
workforce based in Queensland. Boeing maintains RAAF's F-111 fleet
at Amberley and is currently modifying 737 aircraft there as
Airborne Early Warning and Control 'Wedgetail' aircraft.
In December last year, Boeing won a $145 million (US$106
million) contract to provide a fleet of Tactical Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles to the Australian Defence Force. These will be based at
Enoggera Barracks in Brisbane.