Coming soon, scramjet powered planes and missiles that will fly at Mach 6

January 7th, 2008 - 1:38 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Jan7 (ANI): Researchers have conducted experiments in wind tunnels to yield data which might help in the development of future military and civilian planes traveling at hypersonic speeds, as well as missiles. These experiments have been conducted by a group of engineers and researchers at the Purdue University in the United States for designing an advanced aircraft called the X-51A that will be powered by scramjets (Supersonic Combustion Ramjets). The wedge-shaped vehicle with a scoop-like cowl on its underbelly could be used for both military and civilian purpose, and is expected to fly at Mach 6 - or six times the speed of sound. It could also evolve into missiles that would be able to hit mobile “time-critical” targets. The US Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are leading the project and has asked the Pratt and Whitney and the Boeing Company to build the prototype of the vehicle. The engineers from the Purdue University are working on the aerodynamics of the vehicle that would help in maintaining the turbulent flow of air into the engine’s combustor to keep the scramjet running properly, and in increasing the amount of smooth airflow over the vehicle’s upper surface to reduce friction and heat that could damage or destroy the vehicle. Focussing on the forebody, or the front portion of the vehicle, the researchers are using a foot-long model for wind-tunnel testing. “The quiet wind tunnel operation is critical for collecting data to show precisely how air flows over a vehicle’s surface in flight. No other wind tunnel runs quietly while conducting experiments in airstreams traveling at Mach 6,” said Steven Schneider, an aerospace engineer and professor in Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “A quiet wind tunnel yields more accurate data because it more closely simulates flight,” he added. The findings are detailed in a research paper, which will be presented on January 8 during the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ 46th Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibition in Reno in Nevada, US. The test flight of the vehicle is scheduled for 2009, and it is expected that by 2015, Scramjet vehicles would be roaring in the sky. The project to craft Scramjet vehicles is part of the US defence establishment to build future missiles six times faster than today’s cruise missiles. It could lead to the design of space planes that are far less expensive to operate than the current space shuttles, making it more affordable to haul payloads into orbit. The space planes will, however, have to use a combination of scramjets and rockets since scramjets use air from the atmosphere as ‘oxidizer’ to combust fuel and do not require the liquid oxygen needed for rockets. This means that vehicles equipped with scramjets would carry less liquid oxygen - only enough needed to operate rockets at high altitude. “And if you don’t have to carry as much oxidizer, you can make the vehicle a lot lighter, or you could make the structure heavier and more robust,” Schneider said. (ANI)

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