• We have updated the guidelines regarding posting political content: please see the stickied thread on Website Issues.


Gone But Not Forgotten
Sep 25, 2001
Apparently Australian scientists are working on a plane that can fly at 8 times the speed of sound.

Here's the link
5,000 mph jet ready for test flight

Ability to fly at 7 times speed of sound could boost space flight

By Michael Coren
Thursday, March 25, 2004 Posted: 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)

(CNN) -- Fifty-seven years after combat pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, NASA will make a second attempt Saturday at flying an aircraft at 5,000 mph -- about seven times Mach 1, the speed of sound.

The space agency's dogged pursuit of extreme speed, officials hope, will ultimately make space flight easier to accomplish.

NASA will roll out the X-43A, capable of reaching speeds more than Mach 7, in a test flight over the Pacific Ocean. The Hyper-X, as it is called, could also give rise to commercial planes that zip passengers between London and New York in less than two hours.

"It's relatively simple in its concept," said Griff Corpening, chief engineer for the X-43A program. "It's incredibly challenging in its execution.... [That is] where 40 plus years of research comes in."

The 0-million Hyper-X program has already attracted the interest of the Air Force and private aerospace companies such as Boeing. But dreams of civilian spin-offs are at least 20 years away, said NASA officials, who are betting the program will first lead to a more durable, cheaper workhorse for the space fleet.

And the future of the program could be hindered by budget cuts as NASA attempts to establish a moon base and launch a manned Mars expedition under an initative by the Bush Administration.

The diminutive, 12-foot-long X-43A test craft will ride atop a Pegasus booster rocket launched from a converted B-52 bomber off southern California. The flight will test aspects of a design to allow planes to overcome the pull of Earth's gravity by reaching 25,000 mph, also known as escape velocity.

During the test, the 49-foot-long booster rocket will propel the X-43A to about 3,700 mph before the experimental plane detaches from the rocket and flies under its own power using a hydrogen-powered "scramjet" engine, the first such test of the technology.

The actual powered-flight is expected to last about 10 seconds and reach Mach 7 before gliding for six minutes and plunging into the Pacific Ocean.

The test will gather crucial information for engineers and scientists trying to make the X-43A NASA's platform for reusable spacecraft and hypersonic planes, or those traveling above Mach 5.

It will be the first time aircraft have detached in mid-flight for hypersonic flight.

"We've never separated two vehicles going Mach 5," said Leslie Williams, spokeswoman for NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center which is overseeing the test. "That's just never happened. It's a very risky thing."
First attempt ends in explosion

The last attempt in 2001 was aborted after stabilizing fins flew off the plane's booster rocket. Controllers ordered the craft destroyed. Researchers blamed a flight control system failure and unanticipated stresses on the rocket.

Since then, a redesign and test changes have reduced the risks, researchers said, but some aspects of the X-43A's propulsion and aerodynamic design remain unproven. Simulating such high speeds on the ground remains difficult.

In many respects, this will be the first trial for crucial technology employing air-breathing "scramjet" engines instead of bulky and expensive chemical rockets to leave the atmosphere. The new engines promise to dramatically lower the risks and expense of flight by freeing spacecrafts from massive and potentially explosive fuel tanks.

"It's hard to say what the future is going to lead to," said Williams. "The [scramjet engines] have been in the wind tunnel for 20 years, but a lot of people will be interested to see if it works in free flight."

Scramjets operate at "hypersonic" speeds by burning hydrogen mixed with compressed air scooped from the atmosphere. There are no moving parts. Instead, sophisticated geometry in the engine allows hydrogen to combust with air moving through the engine at supersonic velocities.

At that speed, a molecule of air stays in the engine for just a millisecond. That creates an enormous amount of thrust -- the exact amount of which is classified -- for an engine which can be reused throughout the life of an aircraft.

In theory, such engines will push crafts beyond Mach 10 and, with the help of chemical rockets, escape Earth's gravitational pull and achieve orbit. That kind of craft would probably employ multiple propulsion systems including a turbo-jet to reach supersonic speeds, scramjets to take the vessel to the edge of the atmosphere and then chemical rockets to enter the void of space.
Searching for a shuttle replacement

But a string of canceled programs and engineering failures have hindered progress. A thrifty and reliable replacement for the agency's problematic space shuttles is still years, if not a decade, away.

Congressional belt-tightening and the cost of shuttle launches (now more than ,000 per pound; that's about 0 million per flight), have intensified efforts to find a replacement.

It was hoped one could be developed during the last decade, but plans to retire the aging shuttle fleet, now on a deadline of 2010 by President Bush, have floundered.

Engineering obstacles, budget troubles and two space shuttle disasters with Challenger and Columbia swept away a number of promising ideas.

NASA officials maintain that the Hyper-X program will continue regardless of budget cuts.

Keith Henry, spokesman for NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia, said any reduction in funding would only delay the program, not derail it.

"NASA's primary interest is cheaper, more flexible and safer access to space," he said. "It just means the application is a little further."

Trouble is that NASA needs to develop something to replace the shuttle otherwise any Moon and Mars missions are dead in the water
Mr X: I find myself in agreement - basically the looming energy crisis will mean the end of airflight and the sooner we get the 8,000 mph vacuum trains installed the better as far as I'm concerned (and the space elevators will make the space shuttle look obselete too).

If anyone is interested testing is going on now - its on both Sky News and BBC 24. A B52 will fly up to altitude (pos 42,000 feet) and then release the scramjet (X43). Its booster rocket will burn to get it up to its operating speed (the scramjet won't work below Mach 5).

[edit: The B52 has taken off but it will be an hour or so before the scramjet can be tested.]

Seems like everyting went fine:

Nasa Mach 7 mission accomplished

The US space agency, Nasa, has successfully flown an experimental hypersonic plane over California for the first time.

The unpiloted X-43A aircraft used a scramjet engine that could one day usher in a new generation of space shuttle propulsion systems.

Nasa said it briefly reached a record Mach 7, AFP news agency reported.

Scramjets burn hydrogen but take their oxygen from the air, which is forced into the engine at very high speed.

The technology could eventually pave the way for faster long-distance air travel and cheaper access to space.

The mission began when a B-52 bomber carrying the experimental aircraft under its wing took off from Edwards Air Force Base.

Concorde: 1,350mph (2,173km/h)
Japan's bullet train: Record: 277mph (446km/h); scheduled service: 186mph (300km/h)
French TGV: World record (1990): 515.3km/h (320.3mph); scheduled service: 259.4km/h (161.1mph)

Once the bomber reached cruising altitude, the X-43A was launched in mid-air, its speed initially boosted by a rocket.

However, the 1,300kg wedge-shaped research craft then separated from its booster and accelerated away with the power from its scramjet.

The engine was designed to operate for just 10 seconds, leaving the X-43A to glide through the atmosphere, conducting a series of aerodynamic manoeuvres for several minutes before it finally splashed down off the Californian coast.

The mission marked the first time a non-rocket, air-breathing scramjet engine had successfully powered a vehicle in flight at hypersonic speeds.

A previous attempt to fly an X-43A ended in the destruction of the vehicle when its launch system failed.

Engineering challenge

A scramjet operates by the supersonic combustion of fuel in a stream of air compressed by the high forward speed of the aircraft, as opposed to a normal jet engine, in which fan blades compress the air.

But scramjets only start to work at about Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound. And this means they first have to be boosted to their operational velocity.

In the case of the X-43A, this was done by a modified Pegasus rocket, which was released from under the wing of a B-52 bomber.

Scramjet technology was first proposed in the 1950s and 60s. Because they take their oxidant from the atmosphere, the weight of any aircraft is substantially reduced.

The attraction is obvious. If the many engineering challenges can be overcome, this propulsion technology could make it possible to fly, for example, from London to Sydney in just a couple of hours.

More likely in the first instance, they will find applications in the space delivery business - launching small payloads, such as communications satellites, into orbit.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/03/27 22:25:34 GMT

Scramjet technology was first proposed in the 1950s and 60s. Because they take their oxidant from the atmosphere, the weight of any aircraft is substantially reduced.
I may be being too cynical here but surely that means the size of any paload could be higher. Think scramjet powered "cruise missiles"
"I may be being too cynical here but surely that means the size of any paload could be higher. "

In this case you are being too cynical. Scramjets can be sized for any scale aircraft.

"Think scramjet powered "cruise missiles"

Spot on. These will precede military scramjets by some way; civilian ones will arrive (if ever) decades down the line.
"The principal obstacle to using scramjet technology for passenger transportation is the time required to get up to speed."

Only after you've solved all the technical issues, and the regulation problem with noise...
intaglio said:
I may be being too cynical here but surely that means the size of any paload could be higher. Think scramjet powered "cruise missiles"

Where the Yanks are subtle the Ruskis go charging in with no nonsense:

Monday, Mar. 29, 2004

Moscow's new weapon called ‘revolutionary'

Associated Press

Moscow — Russia has designed a “revolutionary” weapon that would make the prospective American missile defence useless, Russian news agencies reported Monday, quoting a senior Defence Ministry official.

The official, who was not identified by name, said tests conducted during last month's military manoeuvres would dramatically change the philosophy behind development of Russia's nuclear forces, the Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies reported.

If deployed, the new weapon would take the value of any U.S. missile shield to “zero,” the news agencies quoted the official as saying.

The official said the new weapon would be inexpensive, providing an “asymmetric answer” to U.S. missile defences, which are proving extremely costly to develop.

Russia, meanwhile, also has continued research in prospective missile defences and has an edge in some areas compared to other countries, the official said.

The statement reported Monday was in line with claims by President Vladimir Putin's that experiments performed during last month's manoeuvres proved that Russia could soon build strategic weapons that could puncture any missile-defence system.

At the time, Col-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, explained that the military tested a “hypersonic flying vehicle” that was able to manoeuvre between space and the earth's atmosphere.

Military analysts said that the mysterious new weapons could be a manoeuvrable ballistic missile warhead or a hypersonic cruise missile.

While Mr. Putin said the development of such new weapons wasn't aimed against the United States, most observers viewed the move as Moscow's retaliation to the U.S. missile defence plans.

After years of vociferous protests, Russia reacted calmly when Washington withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 in order to develop of a countrywide missile shield. But U.S.-Russian relations have soured again lately, and Moscow has complained about Washington's plans to build new low-yield nuclear weapons.


They really are like children but it is a rather deadly game they are playing.

I guess it would be aimed at all of those other nations developing missile defence systems. ;)
Lets not put this idea to the test - lets just agree NOT to have another World War and spend are money on something else!;)
Scramming Jets again!

Woomera to host more scramjet engine tests
Plans are underway for more test flights at Woomera, in South Australia's north, of a supersonic engine it is hoped will one day revolutionise air travel.

In 2002, a team from the University of Queensland tested a scramjet engine - an air-breathing engine it is hoped could one day make a flight from Australia to Europe in about two hours.
Team leader Dr Allan Paull says more tests are scheduled for the October long weekend, with hopes Woomera could be the scene of speeds never achieved anywhere in the world.
"Well, the next two at mach eight, what we're looking at there is different injectors, different combustion chambers and the mach 10 one, well...it's a flight at mach 10 - no-one has ever done that before, so it's something quite significant for Australia to actually pull something like this off," he said.

LastUpdate: Monday, September 6, 2004. 8:54am (AEST)http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200409/s1192740.htm

Mach 10 -that's pretty impressive! IF they pull it off...
And I thought this was going to be about a rock band from Newcastle. (The one in Australia, not the one in England.)
Revolutionary plane prepares to set speed record

A small, air-breathing test plane will attempt to blaze into history on Monday by flying at nearly 10 times the speed of sound.

The hypersonic craft is one of three built by NASA for its $230-million Hyper-X project, established in 1996. At 3.7 metres long, the new type of plane reaches rocket-like speeds but is more efficient because it does not need to carry oxygen to ignite its fuel supply - it takes oxygen from the atmosphere.

And unlike jet plane engines, which use fans to compress air to light fuel for propulsion, the vehicles' engines use no moving parts - the shape of their bellies sucks in and compresses air at supersonic speeds.

The two previous flights of the craft, called X-43A scramjets (supersonic combustion ramjets), had mixed success. The first had to be destroyed in June 2001 when its booster rocket veered off course. But on 27 March 2004, the second set a new aircraft speed record of about seven times the speed of sound - Mach 7 - during an 11-second flight.

The third and final craft will follow the same path as the second flight, taking off from Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, attached to a Pegasus rocket and slung under a B-52B plane.

At some point between 1400 and 1600 Pacific Standard Time, the B-52B will release the paired scramjet and rocket at an altitude of 12 kilometres and a speed of Mach 8. Then the rocket will boost the craft to a height of about 33 kilometres at nearly Mach 10 (about 11,000 kilometres per hour).

Gulping air

The scramjet will then separate from its booster rocket and gulp air to burn its liquid hydrogen fuel for about 11 seconds. When the fuel has been consumed, the X-43A will plunge into the Pacific Ocean about 1300 kilometres off the California coast.

"It'll be another world record," says Vince Rausch, X-43A programme manager at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. But he cautions: "We wouldn't be doing this if it was a slam dunk. A failure might also point out the need for additional research.”

To prepare for the Mach 10 flight, the third scramjet was upgraded slightly. A thicker layer of thermal insulation was added to the engine, wing edges, tail and nose. The nose is expected to reach about 2000°C - roughly 600 degrees hotter than the previous Mach 7 flight.

This is to be the last flight for the Hyper-X project, and NASA has not yet allocated funding for future scramjet research. "I'm excited but a little sad - it's like watching your son go off to college," says Joel Sitz, the X-43A project manager at Dryden Flight Research Center.
The US Air Force, however, is researching how to use the technology in cruise missiles that could reach enemy targets at lightning speeds. And a scramjet in Australia - funded by the US and Australian military - may reach Mach 10 in 2005 with the goal of lofting satellites into space.

Sitz says there may be other commercial applications. A scramjet capable of delivering packages around the world in a few hours might be about 50 years away, he says.

And the vehicles could even be used in conjunction with rockets to travel to space. A rocket could carry the craft to the point where it could begin burning its engine. The scramjet could then shoot to the edge of space, reaching Mach 15. Finally, in the absence of air to propel the jet, the rocket could take over again.

Such an efficient system could allow jaunts to "space Hiltons in the sky", Sitz told New Scientist. "My grandchildren might have a glass of wine looking back at Earth."

Maggie McKee

...but basically it's a way of powering high-speed cruise missiles.

Civil applications will be a long way behind.
Unfortunatley any new technology that could be used in a military sense will be.Of course it would be only used in defense though. :rolleyes:
<saunters in wearing tinfoil napoleon hat, with a copy of `Battle of the Planets; the complete box set` under one arm and a black widow catapult under the other>

Its not like they `need` it.
posted by Homo Aves

Its not like they `need` it.

I agree, but if the technology is available then one side would rather have it than not have it.




Dream of London to Sydney trip in two hours

Nasa to send up its final experimental jet in effort to prove hypersonic flight possible for space launchers and, eventually, passenger planes

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Saturday November 13, 2004
The Guardian

If clear skies break over southern California on Monday, a B-52 bomber will take off from Edwards air force base and head out over the Pacific.

Slung beneath its right wing will be an experimental pilotless plane designed to break records by flying at 10 times the speed of sound.

The 3.5-metre-long (12ft) prototype, known to Nasa as the X-43A, will hitch a ride on the bomber to 12,000 metres (40,000ft) before an on-board rocket takes over, boosting it to 34,000 metres. The rocket will then fall away, leaving the plane free to fly - powered by a revolutionary engine, the scramjet.

Shortly after 9.30pm GMT, the X-43A will accelerate, if all goes smoothly, to 7,000mph, before its engine switches off and it descends to plunge into the ocean some 850 miles from shore.

The test flight is the culmination of an eight-year, $250m (£138m) effort to prove that hypersonic flight is possible, and with it the dream of planes capable of flying from London to Sydney in two hours. But no matter how well Monday's flight goes, the X-43A will be shelved, a casualty of deep cuts made by the Bush administration to fund the president's vision of sending humans to Mars.

For Nasa, the X-43A is a tale of mixed fortunes. A previous attempt in 2001 ended in failure when the rocket carrying it veered dangerously off course, forcing engineers to trigger its self-destruct mechanism. In March, a second attempt was claimed as a resounding success when the plane reached 5,000mph.

Monday's flight will use the last of the X-43As ever built. The plane is powered by an exotic engine called a scramjet. Unlike conventional jet engines that use turbines to compress air before it is mixed with fuel, scramjets are designed so that air moving into the engine is compressed simply because the plane is going so fast.

Getting scramjets to work has been beset with problems. Air moves so fast through the engine that additives are needed to ensure that the hydrogen fuel it is mixed with ignites within milliseconds. And at such speeds, even a thin atmosphere makes the plane's body heat up dramatically, forcing engineers to build them from heat-resistant materials. On Monday, the wings of the X-43A are expected to reach temperatures of 2,000C.

"It's a high risk project, but I'd say we're more than 50/50 confident of success," said Keith Henry of Nasa's Langley research centre.

During the test flight, the X-43A's scramjet engine will fire for 11 seconds, after which Nasa scientists will take readings from onboard sensors telling them how fast it is going and how it reacts to different manoeuvres.

Nasa sees scramjets as making space flight cheaper and safer. "Part of the excitement about coming back to Earth in the space shuttle is it's like a brick with wings. Everything has to work exactly right, because you don't have anywhere near the flexibility of an aeroplane. A scramjet space launcher could give you that flexibility," said Mr Henry.

For now though, Nasa will have to take a back seat. The US military is continuing its research into hypersonic engines with one eye on developing ultra-fast missiles, bombers and interceptors. Commercial companies have also shown an interest, with the parcel carrier FedEx seeing an opportunity to transport high-value cargo.

If they come at all, commercial passenger flights will be much later. As Mr Henry points out, there are only so many destinations where such a fast plane makes sense. "It all comes down to how big the earth is and how much acceleration you think your granny can take," he said.


Mal F

and even more



US to deploy hyper-missiles

Anywhere on Earth could be targeted 'within two hours'

Robin McKie and David Smith
Sunday November 14, 2004
The Observer

American scientists are developing hypersonic cruise missiles that will fly 10 times faster than current rockets, penetrate concrete armouring and could be launched from any site in the world.

The missiles would have a range of 9,000 miles, more than a third of Earth's circumference and be able to reach their targets within two hours. First prototypes are expected to be tested next year, though the missile is not expected to be deployed until the end of the decade.

'If someone is messing with us - or Britain - from far away, we could whack them straight away,' said Preston Carter, an aerospace engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in California.

The new missiles will exploit supersonic combustion ramjet - or scramjet - technology. Nasa engineers will tomorrow attempt to fly a robot X-43A scramjet over the Pacific at speeds around 7,200 mph, 10 times the speed of sound.

The flight will be crucial in demonstrating the feasibility of hypersonic travel. Most media attention has focused on its commercial exploitation for jets that could travel from London to Sydney in two hours. The prime aim is to create hypersonic rockets that would replace current cruise missiles.

'The new missiles could strike pretty much anywhere within a couple of hours,' said Graham Warwick, Americas editor of Flight International . 'Current cruise missile have to be carried on a B52 bomber. That involves planning and takes at least 24 hours. The military want a quick solution, so if they knew bin Laden was sipping coffee at a cafe they could get a bomb on target in two hours.'

Scramjets work on the same principle as all jets, by igniting fuel in compressed air and using the expanding gases to propel the aircraft. Standard turbojets use fans to compress the air: scramjets use a plane's forward motion alone to bring air into the combustion chamber and require an initial boost from a rocket.

The entire aircraft then becomes an enormous scoop that receives air which is compressed and injected - and ignited - with a chemical called silane before hydrogen fuel is added. The feat compares to 'lighting a match in a hurricane', says Nasa.

'We'll see a military application initially as a "bunker buster" that would hit its target and bore into the ground before exploding,' said Carter.'

'We are talking about the ability to strike more cost-effectively. If the US has to deploy troops to the other side of the world, it is expensive. This may keep enemies in check and act as a deterrent.'



Mal F
'If someone is messing with us - or Britain - from far away, we could whack them straight away,' said Preston Carter, an aerospace engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in California.

Ah, so `we` dont get to make the whacking decision anymore?

(saves worrying about responsibility I suppose)

But what if one day we count as the enermy? (a scenario as likley as becoming the 51st state, both odd events seem equally likley at this moment in time)

'Current cruise missile have to be carried on a B52 bomber. That involves planning and takes at least 24 hours. The military want a quick solution, so if they knew bin Laden was sipping coffee at a cafe they could get a bomb on target in two hours.'

But I like B52s...Ive got a 1/72 model of one...its bloody huge.

...these cute little missiles arent going to go down well with model makers.

And Cafes are `civilian` targets. Go watch your copy od `Battle of the Planets`

(Nope, I dont think we want the US millitary getting loose with `that`)
Don't worry, you'll get to keep your B-52, it'll probably carry ten of these. No way will missiles be allowed to jeapordise manned aircraft...

Not a lot of point unless they get a bit better at identifying targets though.
Scramjet flies at 7000 miles per hour

Is this the future of air travel?


A NASA-launched Scramjet has flown at 10 times the speed of sound - just under 7,000 miles per hour.

The pilotless craft was launched over the Pacific Ocean, breaking the air speed record using brand new state-of-the-art engine technology.

The flight only lasted 10 seconds but covered more than two miles a second. The 12ft X-43A jet reached a speed of Mach 9.6.

The craft was carried into the air slung beneath a B-52 bomber and attached to a booster rocket which took the unmanned plane to about 110,000ft before detaching itself.

Vince Rausch, Hyper-X programme manager from NASA's Langley Research Centre in Virginia, said he was delighted.

He said: "Once again we made aviation history.

"We did that in March when we went seven times the speed of sound and now we've done it right around 10 times the speed of sound."