Composites Mystery Plane an X Prize
In the August 5th issue of Aviation Week there was a picture of
an odd looking plane built by Burt Rutan's company going on its
first test flight at Mojave Airport. The company refused to answer
any questions about the plane or its purpose.
In the August
26th issue a reader speculates in the correspondence section that
the plane could be the carrier stage for Rutan's X Prize two stage
system. The spindly vehicle looks like it's intended to straddle
something since it has two widely spaced landing gear sections,
with separate horizontal stabilisers, spanned by a narrow cockpit
module with two jet engines high off the ground. The separate stabilizers
would allow room for the tail section of a vehicle carried underneath.
However, the X-Prize
page for Rutan's entry implies that his high altitude Proteus
vehicle would be the carrier for a two stage system, as does this
slide from 1998. It's possible, of course, that he changed his
mind and decided a different first stage would be more suitable.
David Livingston, host of The
Spaceshow, discusses the bond between between RLV development
and space tourism in his conference paper Space
Tourism and RLVs: You Can't Have One Without the Other! written
in 2000 and now posted at Space
Following up on the discussion
of previous rocket powered vehicles (see below),
the on line book Wingless
Flight: The Lifting Body Story by R. Dale Reed at NASA Space
History includes several sections on the rocket powered aspects
of the lifting body prototypes, e.g. Chapter
6: From Rocket Power to Supersonic and Chapter
7: Rocket-Powered Flight.
for Space Independents...
While not directly related to RLV development, there were some news
items this week involving independent space organizations of similar
spirit as the startup RLV companies:
Aerospace, run by John Powell
as a volunteer organization up till now, has won a "multi-million-dollar
contract with the Air Force" to launch sounding rockets and
high altitude balloons "to the edge of space at 100,000 to
120,000 feet" according to
these articles (via Spacetoday.net):
There is nothing about the
contract posted on the JP Aerospace web site yet but according to
the articles, the organization, based in Rancho Cordova, California
will launch its first payload at the Pecos
County/West Texas spaceport in early October. (I assume this will
be a balloon launch).
John has not responded to my
email about the contract but I imagine he is quite busy transforming
JP Aerospace from an amateur operation into a full fledged company.
(His talk at the SAS meeting last April was included in my review.)
[Look for a formal announcement
from JPA soon. - Aug.30.02]
Meanwhile, an organization that remains in the amateur
category is the Civilian
Space Exploration Team (CSXT), run by Ky
Michaelson, aka Rocketman.
CXST announced this week that it has received clearance from the
FAA and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for a September launch
of its advanced rocket that will attempt to break the high altitude
record for an amateur group:
The 17ft (~5.2m)
511lb (~232kg) rocket
will reach "Mach 5 in just 15 seconds -- breaking CSXT's
previous speed record of 3,205 MPH" and go to 60 miles
(~100km) if things go
as planned. A previous launch window in June was missed
due to bad weather.
(a HobbySpace advertiser)
has announced that it also has recieved approvals from the US
Government, in this case for sending its Trailblazer
spacecraft to orbit the Moon:
The spacecraft will be launched
within the next 9-12 months from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The probe will provide "high-definition (HDTV) video and
maps of the lunar surface (at 1 meter resolution), as well as
new images of earth-rises over lunar craters."
In addition, you can place
messages and personal tokens in a time capsule that will end
up on the Moon when the spacecraft impacts the surface at the
conclusion of the mission.
A high level manager at Orbital Sciences, Antonio Elias, wrote
an editorial piece in this week's SpaceNews (Aug.26.02 issue,
p.13) called "No Time for RLVs". He claims that a
second generation RLV is "neither justifiable nor fundable"
without "dramatic improvements in propulsion, materials,
launch demand or the NASA budget".
argues for development of a reusable 4 or 5 seat crew transfer-rescue
vehicle (CTRV) that would launch on an enhanced EELV - Atlas
V or Delta IV. A 2nd Gen RLV would require $3-5 billion per
year "during the peak development years" (he doesn't
give an estimated total cost), which isn't likely considering
NASA's budget prospects. The CTRV, on the other hand, could
be developed within a $1-2 billion a year budget for a total
of $5-6 billion.
that ELVs are "inherently more reliable than RLVs"
because they are less complex (no deorbit, reentry, landing,
etc. systems) and have higher payload fractions that allow for
greater design margins.
the yearly flight rate for both government and commercial launches
to be less than "30 to 40 shuttle equivalent launches per
year over the next 20 or so years." So a 2nd Gen RLV can
not provide a payback on the investment in less than 15-25 years
While he makes
some reasonable points, they are mostly valid only within the
warped space of the DC Beltway. Here is some counterpoint:
Memories ... A new book will be appearing in October
All Laughed at Christopher Columbus:
An Incurable Dreamer Builds the First Civilian Spaceship
commission link) by Elizabeth
Weil. The cover blurb says the book focuses on Gary Hudson and his
efforts since the 1970s to develop a RLV, especially a SSTO vehicle,
culminating in the Roton project at Rotary
In a posting
on the sci.space.policy newsgroup, however, Hudson says the
book is not a biography of him but "one reporter's nontechnical,
nonbusiness view of about ten of the seventy people who were involved
in the effort, mostly some of the younger techs and engineers..."
Further, he says that originally "it was to be called 'Unreasonable
Men' (as in 'all progress comes from unreasonable men') but the
publisher decided upon the current title."
Weil also wrote the article
Megamillionaire Gets Russki Space Heap! Sells Joy Rides to Fellow
Tycoons! NASA Fumes! - NY Times - July,23.00 a somewhat satirical
look at Walt
Anderson, the primary financial backer of Rotary.
Rockets don't have a great reputation for safety, to say the
least. Virtually every popular article I've read about space
tourism, for example, makes a point of rockets being inherently
dangerous, prone to explosion. At a SLI news conference last
Spring a reporter questioned whether NASA's goal for a future
RLV to reach a reliablity level of 1 in 10,000 chance of failure
was plausible considering that the vehicle would use rocket
In a thread
at sci.space.policy on Rand Simberg's Rockets
Are Good Enough article, Jeff Greason of XCOR
gives a firm rebuttal
to the claim of a poster that "rockets are dangerous devices"
that will never "attain the level of reliabillity, cost
effectiveness and safety of a (scram)jet engine."
that rockets are "fundamentally quite simple devices"
that can be safe and reliable when those features are given
the public perception of rockets as dangerous devices comes
from ELV's that were blown
up by range officers
at the first sign of trouble. [Note that often the trouble is
a malfunction in some other system than the rocket engine such
as the navigation control]. "If jet aircraft were designed
with self destruct, they would, especially in the early years,
have generated similar hard-to-forget fireballs."
rockets have not been designed with safety and reliablity as
a priority. An ELV is only used once so cost considerations
have a very high priority.
In the cases
where rockets have needed to be reliable, they have in fact
served quite well. The examples that Greason mentions include:
Finally, he reports that
XCOR so far has had "1496 engine runs on various engines
with zero uncontained failures.'
confidence builders... A frequent criticism of the
sub-orbital projects is that the capabilities of such vehicles
are far less that what's needed for orbit and so won't contribute
much to developing orbital vehicles.
This is unwarranted on several
levels, the most obvious being that high altitude sub-orbitals
will fly missions very similar to those required for the boost
stage of a two stage orbital RLV. In addition, they will provide
experience in dealing routinely with the challenging aerospace
regimes of subsonic to supersonic and back, dense atmosphere to
very thin atmosphere and back.
Operating and maintaining
such an "aerospace" vehicle in a low cost manner will
be a big challenge and directly applicable to orbital systems.
However, the greatest contribution
of a sub-orbital business could be in simply countering the belief
discussed above that rockets are inherently fragile and dangerous.
When rocket powered sub-orbitals begin to fly weekly trips to
100km or more, this will go a long way towards convincing the
public that rockets can be just as reliable and safe as turbojets.
A sub-orbital company that
builds a track record of safety, reliability and low cost operations
will obviously have a much easier time in raising capital to build
an orbital vehicle than if it tried to skip the sub-orbital phase
and go straight to an orbital vehicle. (Also, profits from the
sub-orbital operations, such as tourist flights, will help to
fund the next phases as well.)
& Space Looks at Space Tourism... .The Smithsonian
Air & Space Magazine issue for September includes an article
entitled Ticket to Orbit by Eric Adams. It includes comments
from several of the independent rocketeers including John
Carmack and Geoff Sheerin of the Canadian
Arrow X Prize project. It also mentions Kelly
Aerospace as an example of a rocket company moving away from
the goal of serving the satellite delivery market and instead
aiming its vehicle, in this case the Eclipse
Astroliner, towards the sub-orbital tourism market.
vs Air Breathers...
Rand Simberg examines the arguments for scramjets in his latest
Fox News blog - Rockets
Are Good Enough - FOXNews.com - Aug.22.02. See the Hypersonics
section and this earlier Hypersonic
Air Breather - The Solution or a Detour? article
for background materials to this debate.
latest Aviation Week (Aug.19.02 issue, p.26) reports that the
Japanese government is getting jealous of the Chinese manned
space program and may start one of its own. If so, it probably
will just mean trying to pop more pods into space rather than
doing something exciting like flying HOPEs
or, even better, KANKOH-MARUs.
(Perhaps it could mean, at least, some scraps thrown to the
is a rumor that Elon
Musk, founder of Paypal and funder of Translife,
is considering an orbital RLV project. Perhaps this was what
he was referring to in a Space News article (June.17.02, p.
16) when he said his new company Space Exploration Technologies
(I can't find a web site for it yet) would "compete with
markets now dominated by Boeing [and] Lockheed Martin"
... "They have launch vehicles and spacecraft and we would
be doing something along that line". He would not elaborate
Watch is reporting that an X-34 vehicle (without an engine)
has arrived at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Also, the
Air Force and NASA may soon be announcing enhanced cooperation.
Industry Looking "a little healthier"... The
recent issues of SpaceEquity.com
offer several RLV related articles:
go to a RLV News reader for pointing me to these articles.)
brief... XCOR's Aleta Jackson is interviewed at the
Objective American Daily - SPACE:
XCOR for the Final Frontier - The Objective American Daily -
Went Hypersonic... HyShot project leader Dr Allan
Paull, of the University of Queenslands Centre for Hypersonics,
says that preliminary analysis of data from the flight
on July 30th shows that the test engine did in fact
achieve supersonic combustion:
program secures place in flight history - Univ. of Queensland
be the first successful demonstration of supersonic combustion
in a full scale engine in an atmospheric test.
rocket launch of a scramjet engine in 1998 did not
achieve combustion at supersonic flow rates. The Air Force did
thrust in a scale model scramjet using a gun launch system
to accelerate the projectile to Mach 7.1.
Dr Paull hopes
to continue with six more flights over five years with the goal
of developing a free flying scramjet powered vehicle. Eventually
they hope to develop a launcher for small
Commander Wants RLV Money - NOW... Space News (Aug.12.02
issue) reports that General Lance Lord of the Air Force Space
Command is trying to persuade the senior staff to include funding
for RLV development in the next yearly budget rather than in
the 2007-2009 time frame as currently planned. (Such long term
funds seldom actually appear.)
He would like
to see some demonstrators built including a VTHL "X-vehicle"
that would reach Mach 10 with a LOX/Kerosene engine. This could
then be followed with a "Y-Vehicle" that would show
enhanced capabilities and perhaps even achieve orbit.
Status... John Carmack recently posted to a sci.space.policy
thread about the X Prize - Aug.12.02 and included some info
on the status of his projects. Comments included:
Aerospace plans to compete for the X Prize (he just
hasn't had time to fill out the official entry papers.)
will be several intermediate vehicles built before the X
sec burn of a bi-propellent engine
a 5000 lbf monoprop engine.
initially unmanned, a seated VTOL with auto-hover and
auto-land; then with a pilot on board. (See photo.)
a streamlined vehicle (~140kg) to demonstrate the flight
Future posts an interview with John Carmack about his group's
efforts to develop VTOL rocket vehicles: The
Armadillo Rocketeers - Interview with John Carmack - Space Future
Journal - Aug.8.02....
Watch is reporting that NASA is giving the Air Force the partially
completed X-34 vehicles. Apparently, the AF will use them as technology
test beds but it's not clear if they will fly and if so what propulsion
system they will use. (The Fastrac engine that NASA promised to
Orbital Sciences, the contractor for the X-34 project, was never
Big Oshkosh Adventure... A report has been posted at
XCOR on the
demonstration of the EZ-Rocket at the Oshkosh Airshow: XCOR
Aerospace: Oshkosh 2002 trip report. Includes lots of photos
of the trip and the two flights. See also the video
at XCOR (they promise more to come) and the video
at Air Venture.
briefs... NASA returns to kerosene engines: NASA's
Space Launch Initiative's next generation reusable launch vehicle
may fly on kerosene - SLI PR - Aug.5.02....
returns to the idea of jet powered flyback boosters for the Shuttle:
Office studies next generation rocket boosters with flyback capability
- SLI PR - Aug.1.02. [New
generation rocket boosters that fly back studied - Spaceflight Now
On his weblog Rand Simberg is leading a discussion on
the promise and practicality of privately developed sub-orbital
vehicles, XCOR's in particular: Space
Technology And Business Misperceptions. Jeff Greason of XCOR
today added some comments on the Xerus design and the general approach
of his company to space development.
briefs... This week Rand Simberg's column at Fox News
is entitled Pork
versus Vision. He discusses the reasons why a genuine next-generation
launch vehicle will not need special spaceport facilities
like those at the Kennedy Space Center....
out David Livingston's June 25th interview on the The
Space Show with space
analyst Jeffrey Foust who examines the launch industry for the Futron
consulting company. (Jeff also operates Spacetoday.net.)
The last third of the interview deals with RLV developments. The
is 71 minutes in Windows Media format. (The "director's
cut" adds several minutes that were not broadcast during the
original radio show.)
While the flight
went well this time (in the previous
test last October the booster rocket malfunctioned), there is
no indication yet if the engine achieved supersonic combustion and
positive thrust. The segment of the flight where the scramjet should
fire only lasts a few seconds before impact - see the flight
diagram. It could take several weeks of telemetry analysis to
determine the engine performance.
More about the
project at the Univ.
of Queensland's Centre for Hypersonics site and in the Hypersonics
Arrow Engine Test Success...The X Prize competitor Canadian
Arrow reports on the success of a test of its single
burner cup rocket engine : Space
race team closer to $10 million prize - CNN.com - July.30.02
Like the vehicle structure,
is modeled after the original V2 design. The engine burns
a mixture of alcohol and liquid oxygen. The complete 18 burner
cap version will produce 57,000 lbs. of thrust at sea level.
The group reports that they
will finish "all the testing of the main flight engine before
the end of 2002" and will aim for "a first launch mid-2003."
Flies at Oshkosh...Jeff Greason reported on the sci.space.policy
newsgroup that the EZ-Rocket flew successfully today at the air
show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Congratulations to the XCOR
I hope this is the start
of rocketplane and VTOVL rocket flights becoming common events
at air shows. Ed Wright for some time has been promoting the concept
of rocket exhibition flights and even rocket racing at air
shows as a promising market to help pay for the development
of private suborbital rockets.
Turbine Engine for Reaching Mach 4...NASA has given
GE a grant of $55 million to begin development of a turbofan engine
that would push a vehicle to Mach 2.5 while in conventional gas
turbine mode and then convert to a "ramburner" mode
to reach Mach 4+.
Aviation Week (July 22,
2002) reports that the Revolutionary Turbine Accelerator (RTA)
project, which is part of the Revolutionary
Aeropropulsion Concepts program at NASA Glenn Research
Center, hopes to develop such an engine for eventual use in
the first stage of a 2 stage RLV. The current project, however,
seeks only to build a ground demo engine by 2006.
Artist's vision of XCOR's
Xerus suborbital vehicle, which will initially
be dedicated to space tourism flights for Space Adventures.
& Space Adventures Announce Xerus Suborbital Spacecraft...XCOR
has begun preliminary design of a resuable suborbital spacecraft
that can take 1 pilot and 1 passenger to 100km (62 miles) in
XCOR and Space
Adventures signed a marketing agreement in which the craft
will be dedicated to SA's space tourism passengers for the first
SA announcement on the use of the Russian suborbital
21 for space tourism flights, the vehicle development
is contingent on XCOR securing the financing.
is available, "XCOR expects that it will take eighteen
months to begin flight tests and three years before entering
Adventures Teams with XCOR Aerospace To Develop Sub-Orbital
Vehicle - Space.com - July.22.02
Andrews describes their recent SLI Alternate Access grant
Space and Technology Wins $2.9 Million Contract from NASA -
SpaceRef - July.22.02...
Force recently awarded Boeing a grant to develop hydrocarbon
engines for its reusable Space Operations Vehicle, or SOV,
which will launch the Space
Maneuver Vehicle (SMV): Boeing
Rocketdyne Awarded Air Force Hydrocarbon Study Contract - Boeing
PR - July.10.02
for SLI?...An AvWeek article recently discussed here
reported that NASA was considering the development by 2008 of
a Crew Rescue Vehicle for the ISS that could ride to orbit on
an expendable, e.g. an Atlas 5 or Delta IV, or in the shuttle
bay. Gradually it would develop into a full-fledged space taxi.
The July 8,
2002 issue of Space News gives a similar report about this design
concept. The project has been given the name Reusable Space
Transportation and Recovery System or RSTARS. The cost estimates
range from $1.5-4.5 billion.
News article says this would cause a major revamping of SLI
since it is believed that diverting resources for RSTARS would
mean that the current goal of a reusable two stage system by
2012 to replace the shuttle could not be achieved. Instead SLI
would concentrate on "third generation" RLV technologies
that could lead to a shuttle replacement in the 2020 time frame.
Announces NASA Contract... "Constellation
Services International, Inc. (CSI) announced today that
it has been awarded a $2.3 million prime contract to study its
LEO Express(SM) Space Cargo System for launching supplies to
the International Space Station (ISS). The award was made by
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center as part of the Alternate Access
to Station (AAS) program, a multi-year effort enabling commercial
ISS resupply services to supplement the Space Shuttle and other
nations' ISS delivery vehicles"...continue
& Rockets Just Can't Get Along...First it was
a haywire Pegasus that destroyed the first X-43 hypersonic test
vehicle. Then the Australian Hyshot
scramjet crashed due to the failure of its first stage rocket
Now a subscale
Japanese supersonic test vehicle has crashed spectacularly after
a premature demating with its rocket booster: Bolts
blamed for rocket crash - New Scientist - July.15.02 (Most
of the press had fun portraying the event as another Concorde
type disaster but the flight actually didn't last long enough
to test the supersonic design.)
it's harder than expected for an airbreather to get a safe ride
on an expendable rocket.
Re-Enter and Hide... In an odd repeat of a previous
test of an inflatable re-entry system, the recent flight of
the Demonstrator 2 (see below)
seemed to succeed only to disappear: CNN.com
- Experimental Russian spacecraft is missing - July 15, 2002.
Some parts of the earlier IRDT
system were apparently never found. [See also Inflatable
Spacecraft Missing - New Scientist - July.16.02]
Readies for Oshkosh... As noted below, XCOR flew
the EZ-Rocket twice on Thursday. A press release now offers
some nice photos (see above) and videos of the flights: Another
XCOR Milestone for EZ-Rocket: two flights in one day - XCOR
PR - July.12.02
flight occurred within about 6 hours after the first. The refueling
was accelerated by cryogenically chilling the helium used to
pressurize the propellant tanks. Doug Jones of XCOR says that
"Typically, as we load helium, its temperature rises through
compression heating. Chilling the helium during loading negates
this heating and allows us to get a full load onto the EZ-Rocket
and multiple flights per day with a small ground are important
goals for XCOR, which wants to demonstrate that a rocket powered
vehicle can provide robust, low cost operations similar to those
of a jet aircraft. Next generation rocketplanes intended for
markets like sub-orbital space tourism and fast cargo delivery
will need such operational capabilities to be economical.
Announces ISS Alternate Access Awards... SLI
will spread $10.8 million, among Andrews
Space & Tech, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Constellation
Services International for a 12 month study into ways to
deliver cargo to the Space Station other than with the Shuttle
and the Russian Progress modules.
awards contracts to investigate commercial services to supply
International Space Station - NASA PR - July.12.02
look at "cargo vehicle concepts for rendezvous and docking
with the Space Station, and the technology requirements needed
to accomplish an automated approach by NASA and industry."
the announcement comes the same day that NASA said the Shuttle
fleet would be grounded for two months to investigate cracks
in the main engine fuel lines - Space
Shuttle Fleet Grounded Until September - Space.com - July.12.02.
includes several space activists including Charles E. Miller,
founder of ProSpace and
David W. Anderman, a director of Space
Frontier Foundation. Walt
Anderson is also an advisor.
Re-entry Shield Test... A sub-orbital Volna rocket
launched from a submarine today and released a capsule that
re-entered with an inflatable thermal shield. The project follows
the previous flight of the IRDT
system tested with a Fregat upper stage of a Soyuz rocket in
February of 2000:
Launches Mini-Shuttle Demonstrator From Submarine - Andrews
Space&Tech - July.12.02
ET: Second XCOR flight also a success. Aleta says
Dick got to show off to brother Burt who came by to watch.
ET: First of two XCOR flights goes well according
to Aleta Jackson of XCOR. Dick Rutan said the flight had "zero
defects". They are currently awaiting a new dewar of LOX before
flying a second time today.
Rocketplane To Fly Twice on Same Day...If weather
permits, XCOR will first fly the EZ-Rocket at the Mojave Civilian
Flight Test Center on Thursday, July 11 at 7am. Then they will
"refuel as quickly as possible and fly again later in the
morning, wind cooperating".
The goal of
the two flights is "to show rapid re-usability and to prepare
for The Oshkosh air show."
I believe this will easily be the fastest turnaround for a large
rocket powered flying vehicle since the DC-XA flew twice within
hours in June 1996 and one of the fastest in history.
Aleta Jackson of XCOR tells me that "the
Germans could turn around a Me163b
in about an hour. We've a long way to go to match that!
" I expect they will eventually get there. ]
brief...NASA & Boeing complete a design review
of a prototype Rocket
Based Combined Cycle engine (an integrated rocket
- ramjet system): Revolutionary
Air-Breathing Engine Rockets Past Key Milestone Ahead of Schedule
CTRV Becomes 2nd Gen RLV Crew module...NASA is considering
the development of a crew transfer/return vehicle (CTRV) that
could be docked to the ISS by 2009 for emergency crew rescue.
It could be launched atop a Atlas V or Delta 4 or taken inside
the 2nd Gen RLV is developed by SLI, it would become the second
stage crew vehicle for that system. (In all current SLI designs,
the crew and cargo go in separate modules.)
Crew Vehicle Option Under Study for Space Station Aviation Week
Full scale HyFly
scramjet engine at NASA Langley wind chamber.
Air Breather - The Solution or a Detour? Hypersonic
air breathing propulsion, e.g. ramjets and scramjets, is often
cited as the best way to lower the costs to reach orbit. It
seems obvious that it is far more efficient to use oxygen from
the atmosphere than to carry it in LOX tanks.
is a tradeoff in higher fuel consumption since an air breathing
vehicle must use up lots of energy to push through the atmosphere
as it builds up speed. A rocket, on the other, zips up and out
of the atmosphere as quickly as possible.
It can also
mean higher complexity and operational costs since two propulsion
systems must be maintained. A rocket engine is still required
to reach orbit and in some systems is required to provide the
initial boost to reach speeds where the ramjet/scramjet engine
can function. (Catapult
systems, e.g. maglev or tube launcher, offer another
way to get an initial boost.)
breather/rocket systems (e.g. RBCC
- rocket based combined cycle) could provide SSTO capabilities
but need many more years of development to prove they can provide
the necessary performance and also operate in a robust and reliable
do offer an elegant, no
moving parts approach in which intake air is slowed and
compressed by the shape of the inlet. Injection of fuel and
combustion provides a net positive thrust.
are similiar except that the air continues to move at supersonic
speed through the engine. This requires a fast burning fuel
ramjets can function on vehicles moving at supersonic speeds
but that the air is slowed internally to subsonic velocity.
This allows for easier handling of hydrocarbon fuels, e.g. jet
ramjet engines were built and flown many decades ago (e.g. see
test flights, the F-23,
and the Bomarc)
but no scramjet has flown successfully outside of a wind chamber.
Both engines have the problem of not producing thrust at takeoff
and slow speeds so either a turbojet or rocket must be used
initially. (Or employ hybrid designs that integrate ramjets
with turbojet or rocket action.)
The X-30 program
in the 1980's used up a billion or so dollars to develop a SSTO
scramjet but never got past the computer simulation stage. The
program has developed vehicles to test
scramjets at Mach 7 and Mach 10. However, the Pegasus booster
failed on the first test flight. A second attempt should take
place this year.
scramjet is a similar but much lower cost program. Its first
flight also failed due to a first stage booster failure. A second
test is coming up this summer.
there have been reports of progress in developing scramjet engines
for the US military. There are two projects - HyFly and HyTech
- that aim to use hydrocarbon fuels. To do this the fuels must
be "cracked" to shorter molecular chains to attain
the fast burning rates needed at supersonic air flow speeds.
This is done using high pressure and excess heat from the engine
before the fuel is injected.
Here is a
brief summary of each program:
- joint DARPA/Navy hypersonic flight demonstration project planned
to last 4 years.
NASA, Boeing, Aerojet, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics
Laboratory (APL), and the Naval Air Warfare Center. The engine
is a dual combustion ramjet engine developed by APL under ONR’s
Hypersonic Weapon Technology program.
- develop to deployment stage a dual combustion ramjet-based hypersonic
strike missile compatible with launch from ships and submarines
as well as aircraft.
- first powered flights in November 2004 at Mach 4, and reaching
Mach 6 one year later.
- Air Force program running since 1995 to develop scramjet technology.
Air Force, NASA, Pratt &
Whitney, Allied Signal GASL Div.
- general hypersonic engine development for missiles and space
- Wind tunnel tests of flight
weight engines starting now and will reach Mach 6 .
- Second engine ready in
2003 for ground tests with flight-worthy fuel and control systems.
- Flight test a hydrocarbon
scramjet engine on the X-43C in 2006.
(I thank Glenn
Olson for some info used in this article.)
See previous articles in the