Feeds

Ordinary-fuel scramjet prototype suffers test failure

'HyFly' crashes, fails to burn

Intelligent flash storage arrays

An innovative hypersonics programme has suffered a failure, with a prototype scramjet missile failing to perform properly and crashing into the Pacific after less than a minute in the air.

HyFly dual-combustion ramjet in windtunnel tests

It works well here...

Aviation Week reports that a "HyFly" test airframe was launched from an F-15 fighter above a weapons range on the California coast on January 16. The magazine quotes a Pentagon spokesman as saying that the test was "unsuccessful... The scramjet engine did not operate as expected and after approximately 58 seconds of flight, the vehicle impacted the ocean."

The HyFly ("Hypersonic Flight Demonstration") is an especially cool kind of hypersonic jet, as it is intended to run on relatively ordinary JP-10 hydrocarbon fuel rather than on hydrogen like most planned scramjets. This is good, because hydrogen is difficult to store and extremely bulky compared to denser, more normal fuel.

As an example, the proposed A2 hydrogen hypersonic airliner is bigger than an Airbus A380 superjumbo, yet it can carry barely a third as many passengers because it is mainly a vast cylindrical hydrogen tank.

Scramjets normally use hydrogen because it burns especially quickly and easily, which offers a decent chance of maintaining combustion even when air is flowing through the engine supersonically - hence the name, supersonic combustion ramjet. Normal ramjets slow the air down to subsonic speed, but the resulting drag limits them to the Mach 3-4 range.

The HyFly uses a technology called dual combustion ramjet, or DCR, in which there are separate intakes shaped so as to produce both subsonic and supersonic flows into the engine. The heavy hydrocarbon fuel burns first in a subsonic flow, breaking down into lighter products which can then - hopefully - finish combusting in a supersonic-flow part of the engine.

HyFly mounted on a launch aircraft

...not so well here.

The DCR compromise was conceived at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It is now being taken forward jointly by the US Office of Naval Research and DARPA - the American warboffinry bureau with deep pockets and a revolving door to the mad scientists' asylum.

DARPA had hoped that DCR might let a smart missile running on JP-10 get up to Mach 6 cruise speed and fly 400 nautical miles to its target. However, the recent test failure follows a "partial success" last December, in which HyFly reached only Mach 3.5 - failing to beat ordinary ramjet performance. The two failures could put a question mark over the whole DCR concept.

Still, a half-scale prototype job did briefly reach Mach 5.5 in 2005, and there have been successful windtunnel tests at Mach 6+.

Aviation Week reports that this "was believed to be the last attempt in the DARPA-led effort to evaluate the weapon's rocket-boosted ramjet-scramjet propulsion system". Other reports had it that DCR was a likely candidate to propel DARPA's upcoming "Blackswift" reusable hypersonic plane - but this might now be in doubt. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.