'Scramjet' plane is aming for 7,200 mph, Mach 10

HAMPTON, Va. - They call it a ''scramjet,'' an engine so blindingly fast that it could carry an airplane from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., in about 20 minutes -- or even quicker. So fast it could put satellites in space. So fast it could drop a cruise missile on an enemy target, almost like shooting a rifle.

This week, NASA plans to break the aircraft speed record for the second time in 7 ½ months by flying its rocket-assisted X43a scramjet 110,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean at speeds close to Mach 10 -- about 7,200 mph, or 10 times the speed of sound.

SECONDS-LONG FLIGHT

The flight will last perhaps 10 seconds and end with the pilot-less aircraft plunging to a watery grave 850 miles off the California coast. But even if X43a doesn't set the record, it has already proved that the 40-year-old dream of ''hypersonic'' flight -- using air-breathing engines to reach speeds above Mach 5 (3,800 mph) -- has become reality.

Unlike rockets, which must carry oxygen with them as a ''combustor'' to ignite the fuel supply, scramjets take oxygen from the atmosphere, offering a huge savings in aircraft weight, and researchers around the world would like to take advantage.

In northeast Australia, a scramjet team funded by the U.S. and Australian armed forces will try for Mach 10 next year as a first step in using a scramjet to put satellites in space. The U.S. Air Force within five years hopes to demonstrate a scramjet-driven cruise missile fast enough to drive explosives deep into hardened targets. Other projects are moving forward in France and Japan.

Under NASA's $250 million Hyper-X program, engineers at Langley Research Center here and the Dryden Flight Research Center, in Edwards, Calif., designed and built three aluminum scramjet aircraft, each one 12 feet long and weighing about 2,800 pounds. Controllers aborted the first test flight in 2001 after its rocket booster malfunctioned.

But the second, on March 24, reached Mach 6.83 (5,200 mph), shattering the world speed record for air-breathing, nonrocket aircraft previously held by a jet-powered missile. The highest speeds by manned aircraft were achieved by SR-71, the U.S. spy plane known as the ''Blackbird,'' capable of flying in excess of Mach 3 (2,300 mph).

''The idea was to demonstrate these technologies,'' said Luat Nguyen, deputy manager for the program that designed X43a. ``We've done that. This is the first scramjet to work, and it is the only one at this point.''

This third flight will test the limits of X43a. Temperatures will be significantly higher: The leading edge of the aircraft's nose will reach about 3,700 degrees Fahrenheit, 1,600 degrees hotter than during the March flight.

LAST ATTEMPT

Regardless of the outcome, the third flight will be the last. The Hyper-X program ends, and no plan exists to replace it. The next steps are largely up to researchers elsewhere.

''What they have done is lay the foundation on how to go further,'' Allan Paull, of Australia's University of Queensland, the leader of the U.S.-Australia ''HyShot'' scramjet project, said of NASA. ``We live in a society of high-tech that's built over time. We went from the horse and cart to scramjets in 200 years.''

Barring mechanical glitches or bad weather, the X43a and its Pegasus rocket booster will leave Dryden between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Pacific time, slung below the belly of a B-52B launch aircraft. About 50 miles off the California coast, the B-52 will drop the scramjet at an altitude of 40,000 feet. The booster rocket will ignite and bring X43a's speed close to Mach 10 at an altitude of 110,000 feet. At that point, controllers will fire two small pistons to jettison the rocket. Then they will open the cowl covering X43a's air intake and light the engine.

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Pictures - http://images.google.com/images?q=%2Bx-43a&hl=en

Article - http://news.google.com/nwshp?hl=en&gl=us&ncl=http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,11389463%25255E29098,00.html&filter=0
 

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*waits for about 30 people to say "Hey, that's Aurora, isn't it?"*
 

Famine

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Not if they were outside, no.

Shuttle re-entry is Mach 24. So why not?
 
The test flight will be pilotless, so I don't know if humans can survive Mach 10. They want to use it as a futuristic way of travel, so they must be going to figure out some way to make it safe for humans to ride on. The highest speed attained by a manned aircraft was the Sr-71 Blackbird that flew in excess of Mach 3. Years ago, after Chuck Yeager, sp?, broke the sound barrier. There was some hyper x program, I think, and there they had some X planes and they flew them into space at like Mach 6. People were in those.
 

Ev0

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Yep, the X-15 travelled at Mach 6+, and did go into space with a pilot onboard.

And I don't think it's a problem to survive flight at mach 10, like as Famine pointed out, Space Shuttle astronauts re-enter at much higher speeds. But it's the length of the flight that is a problem. 10 second flight, top speed of mach 10. The G-Forces would turn any human into a sort of goo.
 

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can humans survive at mach 10?
Of course – The Earth spins at a torrid 90 miles/second, and we're surviving that just fine. It's all about frame of reference and acceleration… if it were accelerating at 7,200 mph, then that might give us some grief (I've totally forgotten what acceleration human bodies can handle without popping a few precious blood vessels… it's in my physics book somewhere). Remember F=m*a… you can't have force without acceleration, no matter what the velocity is.
 
Omnis
can humans survive at mach 10?

Its acceleration people have trouble with...a constant mach 10 is no problem, as long as you are in a sealed cockpit and don't have the wind lashing at you at 7000mph ;)

The scramjet is an amazing thing, no moving parts...that's odd...it could reshape world travel. Although since the average waiting time through Heathrow or Gatwick is well over an hour, do we need faster jets, or faster queues :lol:
 

Sage

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10 second flight, top speed of mach 10. The G-Forces would turn any human into a sort of goo.
10 seconds would cause mass gooyeness, but the article said 20 minutes, which should probably be plenty of time to allow for a relatively slow acceleration.
 
Can anyone explain the difference between a scramjet and a ramjet? I remember they were two distinct things, but I've forgotten what's what.

As for using it as a people mover....it's gotta be absurdly expensive. And, one of the main things about this plane is that it's really light. At 2800 pounds, it weighs less than many cars. It has to weigh next to nothing to get going that fast, and it needs to go really, really fast to have the ramjet work. So, if you put a ton's worth of people on it, you effectively double the mass, and it probably couldn't work.

But, that's not to say that we can't develop it to the point that it can move people. Given lots of time and even more money, I'm sure that we'll get ramjet technology to a very useful point. However, time is hard to get and money is even harder. As the article said, the program's ending, and there's no new one scheduled. But...I hope that we do work on this more in the future.
 
I am not so sure exactly what the difference is. It sounds like a scramjet's fuel moves at supersonic speed, while the ramjet's fuel is propelled by the forward motion of the aircraft.

ram·jet [ rám jèt ] (plural ram·jets)

noun

type of jet engine: a jet engine in which fuel is burned in a duct with air compressed by the forward motion of the aircraft



scram·jet [ skrám jèt ] (plural scram·jets)

noun

aircraft burning fuel in supersonic airstream: a ramjet aircraft in which fuel is burned in air that is moving at supersonic speeds


[Mid-20th century. From the initial letters of supersonic and combustion + ramjet.]

Ramjet and Scramjet Development. -
http://www.flug-revue.rotor.com/FRheft/FRH0005/FR0005c.htm

Other -
http://science.howstuffworks.com/hypersonic-plane.htm
http://science.howstuffworks.com/air-breathing-rocket.htm
 

Solid Fro

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If NASA has that kind of technology, imagine what the military has... *ahemauroracough*
 

Ev0

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10 seconds would cause mass gooyeness, but the article said 20 minutes, which should probably be plenty of time to allow for a relatively slow acceleration.
The only 20 minute figure I see is for a flight time between San Francisco and Washington DC. The actual scramjet flight will last 10 seconds, and involves acceleration from Mach 5 (the speed needed for the Scramjets to start working) to mach 10.

And in response to using scramjets for commercial aviation, I think it's way off in the future. In order for a scramjet to work, it needs air moving through it very rapidly, and attaining such speeds in a large aircraft would require massively powerful jet or rocket engines, which would be hideous to operate based on fuel costs. The only way scramjet flights could become commercially viable is if either powerful jet engines became more fuel efficient, or jet fuel prices plummeted (that likely won't happen though).

But as for military applications such as missiles, scramjets have great potential. Attaching a scramjet to a long range air to air missile such as the AIM 54 Phoenix would make for an excellent weapon. The missile accelerates to a high speed (around mach 5, I think some air to air missiles such as the Phoenix are capable of this speed at an appropriate altitude), and then the scramjet kicks in, making it travel even faster. Enemy aircraft would have a very difficult time avoiding the missile since the closing speed would be astronomical.

Viper Zero
If NASA has that kind of technology, imagine what the military has... *ahemauroracough*
*Waits for CIA to take Viper away* :lol:
 
2,415
I hate to do this to you sage but.....

Sage
if it were accelerating at 7,200 mph, then that might give us some grief

mph is not a measurement of acceleration. Maybe miles per hour per minute, or the easier one, m/ss (meters per second squared). But we all get your point.

Edit: I believe people start pass out at about six G's, but wasn't there a guy who was used on rocket sleds to see what a human could withstand in terms of acceleration and deceleration. I believe they put him much higher than double digits. A cart driver crashed last year and the black box recorded something like 200 G's, he became gooified.
 

Ev0

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Humans can survive surprising amounts of g forces, just as long as the forces are only present for mere fractions of a second. Any longer, and the body will give in to the pressure.

I believe fighter pilots can stay concious at a sustained 7-8g's for a while before blacking out. But keep in mind that figure is with individuals who are in top physical shape, and are equipped with G suits to keep blood from being forced to the legs.
 

Sage

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I hate to do this to you sage but.....

mph is not a measurement of acceleration. Maybe miles per hour per minute, or the easier one, m/ss (meters per second squared). But we all get your point.
Yeah, I realized that right after I posted, but I was hoping nobody would notice. ;)
 

(G)

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The only possible ways I can think of for a scramjet to work would be a staged type of acceleration, perhaps turbofan jet-PDE-scramjet, and I'm not thinking that's cheap, there's already like 2 experimental engines in that.
 

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I'm surprised this technology developed so quickly, it seems only a year ago or so they were debating if this was really feasible.
 

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Yay! Hampton, VA. My hometown :).

icemanshooter23
I'm surprised this technology developed so quickly, it seems only a year ago or so they were debating if this was really feasible.
Scramjets have been around since atleast a few years before 2001, since the first test flight of a scramjet was in June of that year:
http://www.nasa.gov/missions/research/f_scramjets.html
A little deeper digging shows that the technology has been around since pre-1999:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s64256.htm
I think you're thinking about commercial supersonic travel.
 

Ev0

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It certainly would. The Aurora is rumored to be the reason why the USAF temporarily retired the SR-71 back in the 90s.
 
I have heard that the Aurora flies into "the un-named area" and you can see its shadow on the ground as they fly over, if you live in that area.
 

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I heard that Satan was responsible for the creation of, amongst other things, the M25 Motorway and traffic wardens, and likes to go around stamping on babies heads.

Doesn't make it even remotely true.

Didn't we have some kind of unofficial ban on mentioning Area 51 not so long ago?

Edit: I remember now.
 
Famine

Didn't we have some kind of unofficial ban on mentioning Area 51 not so long ago?

Edit: I remember now.

You just killed a puppy :lol:

I read that thread, and since you brought it up, the desert was divided into areas, and the Groom Lake facility just happens to be in Are~ 51, hence the name.

The funny thing about it, is that it was a secret, and officially didn't exist, even though you could buy a map with it on at the gas station :lol:
This came to light when a court case was started by some employees who worked there. They were exposed to some kind of chemical and were seeking compensation, but the courts couldn't accept the case as "there was no Groom Lake Facility". Lawyers brought satellite images to court and said...there it is :lol:

Clinton was in power at the time (1995) and he had to acknowledge that it existed...but...he signed an order placing it above FBI jurisdiction, so that no one could actually be interviewed...crazy. They never disclosed the name(s) of the chemical(s), so the men couldn't receive treatment, and have since died.

The road leading up to the facility is also known as "Widows Highway" because of the high mortality rate amongst employees :scared:

The Aurora project rumoured to have been developed there, may have been scrapped. These projects are known as "black projects" and are hidden in the spending plan published at the end of each year, not to create conspiracy theories, but instead, because no one wants to be responsible for a $50 billion white elephant :lol:

btw the F117 was code named tacet blue during its development :P (they scrapped tacet green)
 

///M-Spec

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btw the F117 was code named tacet blue during its development :P (they scrapped tacet green)

Not to take us off on a tanget, but I thought the stealth fighter prototype project was called "HAVE BLUE"?

Oh, and my friend with a 9 second Supra would beat that rocket thing. ;)


M
 

Solid Fro

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Have Blue was the prototype for the F-117. Tacit Blue was the first test aircraft for stealth technology.

stumpydino
well it was apparently retired in the 90s, had an interesting engine tho :dopey: look here
The Aurora is not the F-19 nor is the F-117. The F-19 never existed (only in a Tom Clancy novel and a PC game by Microprose).