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Sat, Jun 16, 2007

Supersonic Jet Engine Reaches Mach 10 During Testing

Scramjet Could Make Two Hour Flight From Sydney To London A Reality

Scientists from Australia's Defense Science and Technology Organization (DSTO) and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) successfully launched one of the world's fastest air-breathing engine experiments in the Australian outback Friday.

The scramjet engine experiment reached speeds of up to Mach 10 -- ten times the speed of sound. Scramjets are air-breathing supersonic combustion ramjet engines that could make it possible for a two hour flight from Sydney to London, according to the DSTO.

"This research is a major boost to Australian and international scramjet technology research," said Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defense, Peter Lindsay. "Today's flight rocketed to an altitude of 530km, and reached Mach 10 during re-entry. Australia is a world leader in hypersonics research."

"Scramjet research has taken place in Australia for over three decades. We have active research programs in niche technologies of scramjet propulsion as well as guidance and control at hypersonic speeds," he added

The flight took place at the Woomera Test Facility in South Australia. Testing also represented the research collaborators in the Australian Hypersonics Initiative (AHI).

"This test has obtained the first ever flight data on the inward-turning scramjet engine design," said Dr. Steven Walker, Deputy Director of the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA. "DARPA will compare this flight data to ground test data measured on the same engine configuration in the US."

"We are pleased with this joint effort between the U.S. and Australia and believe that a hypersonic airplane could be a reality in the not too distant future."

DSTO scientist Dr. Warren Harch said hypersonic propulsion using supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) technology offered the possibility of very high speeds and fuel efficiencies.

"This technology has the potential to put numerous defense and civilian aerospace applications within our reach during the next couple of decades," Dr Harch said.

Hypersonics is the study of velocities greater than Mach 5 and could have a significant impact on defense as well as on international transport and future access to space, according to the DTSO.

Future defense applications for hypersonic vehicles include long-range time critical missions, with civilian applications including low-cost satellite launching and high-speed aircraft.

Harch said DSTO's scientific contributions to the research program had been the computer modeling of the combustion processes, non-linear mechanics, guidance and control, and trajectory analysis.

"Assisting with telemetry collection is another important area, which presents quite a challenge when working with a vehicle traveling at hypersonic speeds," Dr Harch said.

In November last year DSTO signed the $74 million Hypersonics International Flight Research Experimentation (HiFire) Agreement with the United States Air Force.

Up to 10 hypersonic flight experiments are planned to occur at Woomera over the next five years under the agreement.

FMI: www.dsto.defence.gov.au, www.darpa.mil

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