The University of Queensland is planning 10 more scramjet engine test flights over the next five years to determine whether the technology is viable in a commercially usable propulsion system for launch vehicles.

However, A$80 million ($44.25 million) is required to continue the programme, with backers being sought. Dr Allan Paull, director of the University of Queensland research programme, says at least A$25 million is required to ensure basic research continues, with existing funding exhausted after the HyShot trials in October 2001 and July this year.

Paull says the five-year research push is needed to get scramjet technology ready for commercial exploitation. "There are aspects of scramjet flight we don't fully understand yet, and there has been no testing done," he says. "We don't know how to accelerate between the Mach number range of eight and 15. We don't even know if they will operate at 15."

Paull says if the full A$80 million funding is secured, the next scramjet test flight would take place in late 2003, with three flights following in 2004 and at least one in 2005. The 2003 flight would attempt to demonstrate net energy gain, following the demonstration of supersonic combustion in the July HyShot flight. That engine had all thrust surfaces removed. "We couldn't have controlled it if we had thrust surfaces," says Paull.

The tenth flight would seek to demonstrate flight control of a scramjet engine, including level hypersonic flight under power.


Source: Flight International