Travelling at hypersonic speeds will have globetrotters rubbing their hands with excitement as the new aviation technology could transform holidays or business with continent-skipping taking a fraction of the time it does now. It is claimed it could take just 35-minutes to fly from London to New York and could also pave the way to put satellites into space.
A joint US-Australian military research team is running a series of 10 trials at the world's largest land testing range, Woomera in South Australia, and at Norway's Andoya Rocket Range.
In the test, scramjet attached to a rocket booster was successfully sent to an altitude of 278 km at Mach 7.5 (seven times the speed of sound).
Hypersonic flight involves travelling at more than 5 times the speed of sound (Mach 5).
For this purpose, scientists working in the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) programme are developing an engine that can fly at Mach 7 speed. HiFiRE programme consists of a scramjet engine attached to a rocket booster.
Scramjet: It is a supersonic combustion engine that uses oxygen from the atmosphere for fuel. It is lighter and faster than fuel-carrying rockets and is suitable for flying at hypersonic (Mach 5 and above) speed.
Scramjet engines do not have moving parts. It has rotating compressor and turbine in a jet engine. In the engine, air is compressed and expanded by complex systems of shockwaves located in front of the aircraft.
Significance: It is a game-changing technology that could revolutionise global air travel, and also provide cost-effective access to space. It can be very useful as an alternative to a rocket for putting satellites into space.