back to article Hypersonic 'scramjet' aims for Mach 8 test flight

Queensland's SCRAMSPACE research scramjet has arrived in Norway for a test launch to be scheduled somewhere between September 15 and September 21. Given that the project has gone from origins in the “back of a truck” (in leader Russell Boyce's earliest HyShot experiments) to a research effort worth $AU14 million, the …

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  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Why go to Norway ?

    If you are from Queensland an want a large desolate area to drop a Mach8 brick onto?

    1. Alan J. Wylie

      Re: Why go to Norway ?

      Why not use Woomera?

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Why go to Norway ?

        Trying to get MS to buy them up?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why go to Norway?

      Colder Air and no flies.

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge

        Re: Why go to Norway?

        Colder Air and no flies.

        Mosquitoes and midges can be a severe nuisance in the Arctic in summertime, depending on the place.

    3. ian 22

      Re: Why go to Norway ?

      With nervous Russian fingers on the big red "Launch ICBM" buttons nearby, what could go wrong?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: nervous Russian fingers ?

        Russian fingers are never nervous.

        They may be stone drunk, cold and calculating, or ragingly nimble, but they are never nervous.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ok what have I missed

    Freefall from 0 to mach 8 at 9.82m/s2

    T=(v-u)/a ? Would be t=(8600000-0)/9.82. I think ..

    I figure this would take something like 10 days ...that can't be right so what did I miss here ?

    1. Stu J
      FAIL

      Re: Ok what have I missed

      Dont know where the hell you got 8600000 from, it's close to 2700 - so a bit less than 5 minutes...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ok what have I missed

      You've missed 3 things...

      Firstly the drag factor which means it'll take longer to accelerate (though not by much initially).

      Secondly the fact that gravity is not constant - earth being an oblate spheroid, gravity is stronger at the poles, but is also weakens with altitude (and they're intending to go a long way up).

      Thirdly, and most importantly, they're not using gravity to accelerate to mach 8. They're using gravity to accelerate to a speed where the scramjet will work. The rest of the acceleration will be jet powered!

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Ok what have I missed

        Oh come on. Gravity may be detectably different at the poles but really this is not a factor in doing rough sums. And they are not going a long way up - the Earth's radius is ~6400km so they are only going to be 5% further from the centre of mass than you are right now. Again, measurable but pretty minor.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Vulch
      Boffin

      Re: Ok what have I missed

      Simples. You've used two different time units. 8600 km per *hour* and 9.82 m per *second*^2. You did the multiplying by 1000 to change the km to m, but skipped the 3600 to change seconds to hours or vice versa.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ok what have I missed

        @vulch - that was it . Thanks

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Ben 56
    Trollface

    Are you staring at my tail pipe?

    - Attitude jet.

    Oh you meant "altitude jet" you say?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are you staring at my tail pipe?

      No, attitude is correct. It's also defined as "the orientation of an aircraft or spacecraft, relative to the direction of travel."

      1. cordwainer 1

        Re: Are you staring at my tail pipe?

        True, attitude is the correct term...also true the line "Are you staring at my tail pipe?" did make me smile briefly. Especially since everyone knows a jet with real attitude would simply say, "Oi! 'ands off me nozzle!"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Are you staring at my tail pipe?

          Wonderful, just what aviation needs, a SCRAM jet with an Ocker accent.

  4. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I look forward to when its the other way round

    and a scramjet is used to launch a rocket.

  5. Kharkov
    Unhappy

    Scramjets?

    Oh look, an engine that... doesn't work until it's going really fast. That's useful.

    Oh, wait, it IS useful... as a weapon. Very high speed missiles. Bombing the cr*p out of somewhere when it takes a couple of hours for your tomahawks to arrive just isn't any fun, it seems. Gotta have it there in 10 minutes or less or your next hard-on's free.

    [Faceslap]

    And in the meantime, there's little research into reusable rocket engines, cheaply-manufactured rocket engines etc because... yep, you've guessed it, scramjets are the new 'sexy' thing that's sucking down all the research money.

    1. AdamT

      Re: Scramjets?

      well, there's SpaceX and ReactionEngines but, yes, this does seem a bit like trying to run before you can walk...

    2. Stuart Van Onselen

      Re: Scramjets?

      The point of a scramjet is that it's a jet. It uses atmospheric oxygen instead of stored oxidiser that it would have had to carry with it, thus making for a much lighter vehicle with greater range/payload.

      Yes, it does need to be accelerated to a ludicrous speed before it works, but here's one (non-military) scenario where it can really help:

      Three-stage orbital rocket:

      First stage: Traditional rocket. Fuel and oxidiser stored in rocket. Gets whole vehicle up to scramjet speeds.

      Second stage: Scramjet. Only needs fuel, saves weight on oxidiser.

      Third stage: Ok, we're out of the atmosphere now, so we have to go back to rockets. But we have still saved the weight of the oxidiser in the second stage, and that effectively allows an equivalent increase in the payload.

      1. The Axe

        Re: Scramjets?

        Or 1) Skylon, 2) Skylon, 3) Skylon.

        1. annodomini2

          Re: Scramjets?

          Beat me to it! :)

    3. Gartal
      Devil

      Re: Scramjets?

      New? Various people have been interested in scramjets since the 1970's.

  6. poopypants

    There's something missing

    Oh, that's right, this story is missing the obligatory statement about how this technology can be used to make airline travel faster, letting passengers arrive much sooner. (And of course when they say "airline" they mean "missile", and when they say "passenger" they mean "warhead". But you already knew that.)

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    The Australian operation seem to have had more successful launches than DARPA's

    Which may leave the American's slightly miffed, given they are much better funded.

    SCramjets back a great research subject but their practical uses seem pretty limited. They are very far below the flight readiness of a regular (subsonic combustion) ramjet and take a lot more grunt to get to working velocity.

    TBH if you were looking for a useful ramjet research programme you'd want to a)Widen their operating Mach range (realistically it's about 3 Mach numbers and has been since the '50's). Widening this would mean a smaller booster to get to the same high operating speed. EG A M5 ramjet needs a M2 booster to get to ignition speed would now need a (much smaller) M1 booster.

    b) Lower the amount the inlet has to be slowed down before reaching the combustor. Historically that has been to M0.5, but raising that to say M0.9 or M0.95 would lower the drag losses quite a lot (and the amount of heat the airframe has to absorb doing so), and since it's it's already pretty hot ignition should not be a problem.

    So thumbs up for the Australian effort but I won't hold my breath this is anything close to flight ready.

    1. Shagbag

      Base Research

      "The data will give insights into hypersonic physics, hypersonic combustion, performance of materials and components, and how these vehicles will fly in future."

      I guess they're hoping the data will open new doors for further research.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: The Australian operation seem to have had more successful launches than DARPA's

      Lower the amount the inlet has to be slowed down before reaching the combustor. Historically that has been to M0.5, but raising that to say M0.9 or M0.95

      Surely the "SC" bit of SCRAM jet means that they don't need to slow the air to below Mach 1 for combustion?

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: The Australian operation seem to have had more successful launches than DARPA's

        "Surely the "SC" bit of SCRAM jet means that they don't need to slow the air to below Mach 1 for combustion?"

        True.

        I was talking about a useful ramjet research programme.

        That's something that would give a flight vehicle, or vehicle upgrade, within 5 years.

        The first SCRamjet tests were done under classified USN Programmes at the APL of Johns Hopkins in the early 1960's.

        We are still waiting for an actual application vehicle to fly.

        My prediction is (funding permitting) Skylon will be in service and flying to orbit before this idea gets anywhere close to a working flight test vehicle.

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: The Australian operation seem to have had more successful launches than DARPA's

          @John Smith 19

          This is useful supersonic ramjet research. Who knows what will come of it? No-one really. But isn't that the point of research? Some of it results in stuff, some of it doesn't. Since no-one has really got a SCRAMJET to work well yet (despite these tests in the 60's? Really?), surely any research is almost by definition, useful.

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Happy

            Re: The Australian operation seem to have had more successful launches than DARPA's

            "This is useful supersonic ramjet research. "

            I'm sure it will increase the number of PhD's in hypersonic flow. Some may even find work in the field as well. That would not include yourself by any chance?

            "Since no-one has really got a SCRAMJET to work well yet (despite these tests in the 60's? Really?), "

            Yes really. The work was finally de-classified in the late 80s when the AIAA released a history paper on it. The first time even a small vehicle achieved positive thrust IE switching on the engine speeded the vehicle up was around 2010.

            And yes the US X30 was basically built around one of these. Something over $1Bn they discovered a)They should have checked the Principal Investigator had used the right values for basic physical constants and b) It's damm tough and pretty much anything else is simpler.

            If you want to play the conspiracy theory card I'll simply say that if the US had got it working decades earlier (which is what your implying) they would have either not bothered to fund this or focused it in areas away from such technology.

            I recommend you go away and down load TA Heppenheimers "Facing The Heat Barrier."

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Coat

          Johns Hopkins ?

          Isn't that a hospital?

          Ah. Hang on. Now we've got Aussies in the act. It's not missile research. It's all about getting the Flying Doctor to the well in the outback that little Bluey fell into and which Sippy has just hopped for three days to the nearest mobile phone mast where he could twitter the message from?

          "What's that you say Skippy?...."

          -----> Yeah, the one with the front pouch.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But...

    Will is speed up the development of the flying car I should have had by now?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: But...

      "Will is speed up the development of the flying car I should have had by now?"

      No

  9. DJ 2
    Joke

    So if the autodestruct doesn't happen.

    What is a mach 8 rocket going to do to the sea.

    1. Enter like a diver and do little else?

    or

    2. Make a big ripple?

    1. dorsetknob
      Mushroom

      Re: So if the autodestruct doesn't happen.

      "Quote"

      So if the autodestruct doesn't happen.

      What is a mach 8 rocket going to do to the sea.

      1. Enter like a diver and do little else?

      or

      2. Make a big ripple?

      " unquote"

      what it will do is create a very large radioactive cloud

      Whoops who forgot to remove the live nuke war head

    2. smartypants

      Re: So if the autodestruct doesn't happen.

      Will there be a plopping sound?

      1. taxman

        Re: So if the autodestruct doesn't happen.

        Depends if there's anyone around to hear it.

    3. DropBear Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: So if the autodestruct doesn't happen.

      Probably option 1. For next closest thing I could think of, see what a bullet does (not much): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcyEWT2O550

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: So if the autodestruct doesn't happen.

        That's a bullet and its going a lot slower than the scramjet aims to. If it hits at anything like the aimed for speed it will be hitting at above the speed of sound in water I would expect something not solid to cope well with that.

    4. 4ecks

      Re: So if the autodestruct doesn't happen.

      At that speed impacting water is not much different to concrete, I personally know it hurts at 30mph, so at M1+ all you are likely to get is something like a mosquito hitting your windscreen.

  10. EddieD

    I'd have thought that the speed would drop fairly rapidly as the friction with the air built up - true, momentum will probably keep it above terminal velocity, but I doubt it would retain enough to hit the water at Mach 8.

    Would be interesting to watch though...from a safe distance...

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Boffin

      "I'd have thought that the speed would drop fairly rapidly as the friction with the air built up - true, momentum will probably keep it above terminal velocity, but I doubt it would retain enough to hit the water at Mach 8."

      Wrong. 320 Km is roughly 1.05 million feet.

      Like the Swiss skydiver. Almost no air --> almost no drag.

      Vehicle picks up speed. Not sure it'll get up to SCRamjet ignition speed in free fall on its own, But I'll take their word for it.

      When it hits dense air OTOH....

      1. Martin Budden

        "gravity will accelerate the vehicle to Mach 8"

        Which means they won't be switching it on. As John Smith 19 points out above, almost no air --> almost no drag, so yes they are relying on free fall to get it to Mach 8. I bet it's got a very slippery low-drag shape too.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Happy

          "As John Smith 19 points out above, almost no air --> almost no drag, so yes they are relying on free fall to get it to Mach 8. "

          I finally applied Newton and yes, in principle, most of that fall speed can be gained by a straight free fall from that altitude. I'm guessing htat saves them the cost of a booster rocket pointed down (yes that has been used before) to increase the speed. I think there will be some thrust produced and they get to study it's flight from 0-M8, which is difficult if you go from +x 1000s mph up to -x 1000 mph down.

          Hopefully they will get positive thrust when it fires (that's not guaranteed. They only started getting thrust in 2004).

          One thing they did not mention was (if they have someone on the water) they will get some great data about what does happen when an object at M8 hits the water.

          Short answer. There will be one hell of a bang and water plume (for such a small object) as it transfers its kinetic energy to (a lot of) water.

  11. json
    Mushroom

    Sounds cool..

    I hope my plane with the new APM2.6 wont attempt the same this weekend!

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