Military scramjet test hits Mach 5 - with no moving parts

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Military scramjet test hits Mach 5 - with no moving parts

An X-51A Waverider flight test vehicle successfully made the longest ever supersonic ramjet-powered flight today off the Southern California coast. The engine, called a scramjet, operates hypersonically at speeds greater than mach 5 and has no moving parts.

This test opens the door for hypersonic weapons capable of prompt global strike, hypersonic air transport, and may someday lead to more economical access to space.

The more than 200-second burn by the X-51's Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne-built air breathing scramjet engine accelerated the vehicle to Mach 5. The previous longest scramjet burn in a flight test was 12 seconds in a NASA X-43.

Even before sifting through volumes of telemetry data transmitted by the X-51, Air Force officials called the test, the first of four planned, an unqualified success. The flight is considered the first use of a practical hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet in flight.
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We are ecstatic to have accomplished the most significant of our test points on the X-51A's very first hypersonic mission. We equate this leap in engine technology as equivalent to the post-World War II jump from propeller-driven aircraft to jet engines.
said Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory .

The X-51 departed about 10 a.m. from Edwards Air Force Base, carried aloft under the left wing of an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52H Stratofortress. Then, flying at 50,000 feet over the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range, the Waverider was released.

Four seconds later an Army Tactical Missile solid rocket booster accelerated the X-51 to about Mach 4.8 before it and a connecting interstage were jettisoned.

Then the X-51's SJY61 engine ignited, initially on a mix of ethylene, similar to lighter fluid, and JP-7 jet fuel then exclusively on JP-7, the same fuel that once powered the SR-71 Blackbird before its retirement. The flight reached an altitude of about 70,000 feet and a peak speed of Mach 5.
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After about 200 seconds of engine operation a vehicle anomaly occurred and the flight was terminated. Engineers are busily examining the data to identify the cause of the anomaly. However because of the overwhelming success of the test, this will be one of the key points to examine in the analysis of several months' worth of data derived from today's flight.

This first flight was the culmination of a six-year effort by a small, but very talented AFRL, DARPA, and industry development team,

Now we will go back and really scrutinize our data. No test is perfect, and I'm sure we will find anomalies that we will need to address before the next flight. But anyone will tell you that we learn just as much, if not more, when we encounter a glitch.
said Mr. Brink.

Four X-51A cruisers have been built for the Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency by industry partners Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Boeing. The Air Force intends to fly the three remaining X-51A flight test vehicles this fall, Mr. Brink said. The Air Force currently plans to fly each on virtually identical flight profiles, building knowledge from each successive flight.

Mr. Brink said the heart of this aircraft is its SJY61 Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne scramjet engine, which is capable of producing between 400 to 1000 lbs of thrust. Like a conventional jet engine, the SJY61 is capable of adjusting thrust throughout the X-51's flight envelope.

Hypersonic flight, normally defined as beginning at Mach 5-five times the speed of sound- presents unique technical challenges with heat and pressure, which make conventional turbine engines impractical. Program officials said producing thrust with a scramjet has been compared to lighting a match in a hurricane and keeping it burning.

The X-51 was carried aloft for the first time by the same B-52 from Edwards Air Force Base for a captive carry mission on Dec. 9, 2009. That flight verified B-52 aircraft performance, handling qualities with the X-51A attached to the B-52, control room displays, software integration and communication with the X-51A.

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There must be a mistake in the name, everyone knows that its really called Roger Ramjet

scramjet.jpg - 21.41kb
By netchicken: posted on 27-5-2010

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