India Successfully Tests a Scramjet Engine

Credit: ISRO

Credit: ISRO

As anyone who has traveled from the U.S. to India can attest, it is one damn long flight. And while it may not be getting shorter anytime soon, perhaps there is hope on the horizon. On Sunday, India took another significant step in its drive to develop cutting edge domestic aerospace technology with a successful test of a scramjet engine which has applications for both atmospheric and space travel.

The test flight lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota aboard a two stage, spin stabilized solid rocket and ended with an intentional crash into the Bay of Bengal. In the moments in between however, India became only the fourth country to successfully test a supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet engine, when the test vehicle’s twin powerplants ignited and burned for 5 seconds, overcoming the extremely challenging engineering hurdle of maintaining a flame at supersonic speeds.

The test, which was conducted by the Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, utilized on-board hydrogen as fuel, taking in air from the atmosphere at a screaming hot Mach 6.

According to the ISRO press release “some of the technological challenges handled by ISRO during the development of Scramjet engine include the design and development of Hypersonic engine air intake, the supersonic combustor, development of materials withstanding very high temperatures, computational tools to simulate hypersonic flow, ensuring performance and operability of the engine across a wide range of flight speeds, proper thermal management and ground testing of the engines.”

Sunday’s test was part of an overall program which is aimed at developing pathfinder technologies for a future space transportation system which has yet to defined. Earlier this year, on May 23, ISRO conducted a successful suborbital test of a sub-scale automated spaceplane which bears a striking resemblance to NASA’s abandoned X-34 project.

Posted in: India Space

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  1. Appearance only… looks an awful lot like x37.

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