Even though the US Air Force has been toying with the technology since the 1960s, hypersonic aircraft and the scramjets
that propel them, remain on the bleeding edge of aerospace engineering.
5, while hypersonic engines such as scramjets
cannot provide effective thrust at speeds much below Mach 3.
A lot of work still needs to be done before hypersonic scramjets
first see action in battle, but the technology shows great promise, officials said.
are able to burn atmospheric oxygen, they can be made lighter than conventional rockets, which may allow satellites to be launched into orbit more efficiently and cheaply.
Because they lack mechanical compressors, scramjets
require the high kinetic energy of a hypersonic flow to compress the incoming air to operational conditions.
These include not only ballistic missiles and boost-glide systems, but also bombers, cruise missiles, and possibly scramjets
or other advanced technologies.
It is hoped that scramjets
, novel engines without rotating parts that can operate at extremely high speeds, could one day provide a cost-effective means of accessing space in vehicles that take off and land like conventional aircraft.
The application of gaseous or liquid hydrocarbon fuels to scramjets
has been studied on and off for about 50 years.
Unlike ordinary jet engines, scramjets
suck oxygen from the atmosphere and use it to burn onboard fuel.
Hypersonic requires the use of jets known as scramjets
('air breathing rockets'), which work on a different principle from normal jets, which are used in supersonics.
The data clearly shows, without question, that scramjets
work," said Griff Corpening, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center's X-43A chief engineer.