A team of scientists on 18 May 2016 successfully tested hypersonic superjet technology as part of the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) program.
As part of the test, scramjet attached to a rocket booster was successfully sent to an altitude of 278 km at Mach 7.5 (seven times the speed of sound).
The test was conducted in the world's largest land-based testing range in Woomera, South Australia.
Features of HIFiRE program
• It is one of the largest collaborative research programs between Australia and the USA.
• It aims to explore the fundamental science of hypersonics and the potential for next generation aeronautical systems.
• Hypersonic flight is a flight through the atmosphere at speeds above Mach 5.5, or more than five times the speed of sound.
• The program has already achieved some significant milestones such as the design, assembly and pre-flight testing of the hypersonic vehicles and the design of complex avionics and flight systems.
• It is considered as one of the most advanced hypersonics programs in the world.
• The HIFiRE team plans to complete 10 separate tests between 2009 and 2018.
• NASA, DST Group of Australia, Air Force Research Laboratory of the USA, the University of Queensland and Boeing Research & Technology in the USA are the partners in the program.
What is scramjet technology?
• It is a supersonic combustion technology that uses oxygen from the atmosphere for fuel.
• It is lighter and faster than fuel-carrying rockets and is suitable for flying at hypersonic speed.
• A scramjet engine is devoid of moving parts. It has rotating compressor and turbine in a jet engine.
• In the engine, air is compressed and expanded by complex systems of shockwaves located in front of the aircraft.
Significance of HIFiRE program
• The current speed record for a manned, powered aircraft is Mach 6.72. The record was set way back in the 1960s by the US X-15 experimental aircraft.
• Against this backdrop, HIFiRE is considered as a game-changing technology that would revolutionise global air travel.
• Once operational, it will also provide cost-effective access to space as it can be used to send satellites into space.
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What: Successfully tested
When: 18 May 2016