Feeds

Fastest-ever hydrocarb scramjet hits Mach 8, doesn't explode

HIFire 2 engine successfully lights match in a hurricane

High performance access to file storage

The successful test launch of the hydrocarbon-fuelled scramjet HIFire 2 by the US brings mankind a step closer to practical travel at over five times the speed of sound.

Reliable hypersonic transportation could revolutionise trips to space and across the globe, but sustained flight at such speed is difficult: several test launches recently ended in flaming obliteration.

But NASA and the US Air Force Research Lab pulled off a significant hypersonic jet launch from the Hawaii-based missile range on Friday. The HIFiRE 2 jet accelerated from Mach 6 to Mach 8 (4,567 to 6,090 miles per hour; 7,350 to 9,800 km per hour) and flew for 12 seconds at the top speed.

Launch of HIFire hypersonic jet, credit AFRL

A HIFire launch. Credit: AFRL

The three-stage launch system fired correctly, and the test was hailed as a stunning success.

It's not the fastest ever hypersonic flight - speeds of Mach 10 have been achieved - but it is the first jet flight to go that fast using hydrocarbon fuels rather than hydrogen.

Hydrogen fuel provides more energy than hydrocarbons, but is less dense, harder to store and more expensive.

The super-fast sound-beating jet was packed with measuring equipment from NASA and the Air Force, and the data from the flight will be ploughed into more research in the area, including making scram engines work with onrushing air entering the engines at supersonic speeds - a challenge previously described as trying to light a match in a hurricane.

"This is the first time we have flight tested a hydrocarbon-fuelled scramjet accelerating from Mach 6 to Mach 8," said NASA hypersonics project scientist Ken Rock, based at the agency's Langley Research Centre. He added:

At Mach 6 the inlet compression and combustion process was designed to reduce the flow to below Mach 1 - subsonic combustion. But at Mach 8 flight the flow remained greater than Mach 1 or supersonic throughout the engine. So this test will give us unique scientific data about scramjets transitioning from subsonic to supersonic combustion - something we can't simulate in wind tunnels.

The HIFiRE 2 flight was the fourth in a series of ten experimental launches exploring hypersonic flight. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.