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Brits To Crash Test a Scramjet 314

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the please-give-us-videos-of-that dept.
hywel_ap_ieuan writes "The BBC is reporting that a the "Hyshot consortium" will be testing a scramjet called Hyshot III in Australia on Friday. The fun part: "If everything goes to plan, the experiment will begin at a height of 35 km. As the engine continues its downward path the fuel in the scramjet is expected to automatically ignite. The scientists will then have just six seconds to monitor its performance before the £1m engine eventually crashes into the ground.""
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Brits To Crash Test a Scramjet

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  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:35PM (#14983590)
    Perhaps they could team up with some Earth Sciences researchers doing work on crater formation...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:37PM (#14983605)
    All expeirements should end in some kind of explosion! What good is being a scienctist if you don't get to blow shit up?!?
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:37PM (#14983611)
    Old pilot's motto: "Airspeed, altitude or brains. Two are always needed to successfully complete the flight."

    > "If everything goes to plan, the experiment will begin at a height of 35 km. As the engine continues its downward path the fuel in the scramjet is expected to automatically ignite. The scientists will then have just six seconds to monitor its performance before the £1m engine eventually crashes into the ground."

    Revised for 2006: "We'll settle for one out of three these days... as long as you have a hell of a lot of it to compensate."

  • by blastard (816262) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:38PM (#14983613)
    Somehow, paving "the way for ultrafast, intercontinental air travel" by crashing your very first example does not sound like the way you want to start things off.

    Then again, the British did usher in the passener jet age with the Comet [bbc.co.uk].

    • by gjuk (940514) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:14PM (#14983904)
      To be fair - the Comet was revolutionary in many ways - especially being the first commercial jet airliner. The metal fatigue which caused it to crash was not known about until the crashes. First mover disadvantage. Because the British investigated the crashes so thoroughly, subsequent airliners could ensure they weren't prone to the issue. A great shame that DeHavilland did all the work and a bunch of people died for Boeing to benefit.
      • by AJWM (19027) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:46PM (#14984452) Homepage
        A great shame that DeHavilland did all the work and a bunch of people died for Boeing to benefit.

        They weren't the first, although Boeing did do a lot of early work.

        During WW-II Boeing thoroughly analyzed the bombers that returned shot up from missions, noting carefully where the damage was. Then they improved the design of the places where the damage wasn't*, because planes which had been damaged there obviously hadn't made it back.

        (* For the pedantic, in some cases they made the design change elsewhere, e.g. putting redundant systems in a different place. Douglas didn't learn that lesson until a DC-10 cargo door tore loose, simultaneously ripping all three "redundant" hydraulic lines to the tail because they routed through the same area.)

        • The British Comet investigation is regularly held up as the start of Air Accident Investigation procedures that are used to this very day. Plus the DC-10 Sioux City incident involved the engine 3 fanblade disintegrating and severing all three hydraulics lines, not a cargo door. There was also a second incident involving a DC-10 and hydraulics, when the left hand engine of one was ripped off on takeoff, which also severed all hydraulics in the left hand wing, resulting in the droops retracting and the airc
    • by rilister (316428) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:41PM (#14984097)
      err. more importantly, the freakin' jet engine!
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Whittle [wikipedia.org]

      entertainingly, the new US show "American Inventor" credited the invention of the motor car and the computer to the Americans last week. doooooh!

      meanwhile, this scramjet isn't even by the brits, it the aussies. It's being reported by the BBC, hence the confusion
      • ok, so my brain wasn't on right. It is the Brits. Sorry to all offended Brits.
      • No, RTFA; the scramjet on this launch is designed by Qinetiq (stupid bloodly name - pronounced Kinetic; the privatised version of the old British DERA - Defense Evaluation Research Agency). Each Hy launch, managed by the University of Queensland, carries a different design from one of the participating international agencies.
  • Not the Brits (Score:2, Informative)

    by wombatmobile (623057)
    ScramJet is the work of Australians Ray Stalker and Allan Paull [abc.net.au] who achieved the phenomenon with a budget of tins cans, string and glue whilst Nasa failed with a team of hundreds and a 9 figure budget.
    • Re:Not the Brits (Score:5, Informative)

      by Haeleth (414428) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:03PM (#14983816) Journal
      ScramJet is the work of Australians Ray Stalker and Allan Paull who achieved the phenomenon with a budget of tins cans, string and glue

      RTFA: "The scramjet engine, known as Hyshot III, has been designed by British defence firm Qinetiq."

      There's this concept called "international collaboration". It's not actually impossible for a project to involve people from more than one country. Yes, and one of the Australians you name is in charge. But the scramjet engine that's being tested on Friday was designed by the British. A few days later they'll be testing another one that was designed in Japan. After that, there's an Australian-designed one lined up too.

      We're talking big money international collaboration here. Stalker and Paull aren't working with a budget of tin cans any more.
    • Re:Not the Brits (Score:5, Informative)

      by AeroIllini (726211) <aeroilliniNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:06PM (#14983841)
      Nasa failed with a team of hundreds and a 9 figure budget.

      The first much-ballyhooed flight may have failed (because the Pegasus rocket exploded, not because of a problem with the scramjet), but the Hyper-X [nasa.gov] program is considered a rousing success, with two successful hypersonic flights and a new jet-powered speed record of Mach 9.6.

      That being said, I applaud the efforts of the University of Queensland, who is helping push the limits of aerospace knowledge. If they can do that on a shoestring budget, then that's all the better.
    • Nope. These Hyshot tests are collaborative exercises between a number of participants. This particular test has a UK (QinetiQ) Scramjet [qinetiq.com] design, boosted up to velocity via an Aussie rocket. Past tests have had other designs, including an Aussie built scramjet. The Australian press tests to big up the Aussie element, which is why you can tend to miss the reality of the international nature of the work.

      You're right about them doing quite a lot with very little though. Other thing to bear in mind is its more

    • who achieved the phenomenon with a budget of tins cans, string and glue whilst Nasa failed with a team of hundreds and a 9 figure budget.

      Wow. I don't know where to begin. Oh, I know- how about the fact that NASA DID NOT FAIL [nasa.gov](article is from 2004, by the way- and they hit Mach 10).

      before the £1m engine eventually crashes into the ground

      A million British Pounds is US$1.7 million, which would put it firmly in the "seven figures" realm for JUST THE ENGINE. So I would think it would be reasonable

      • Lastly- the Aussies benefited quite a bit from research NASA has made over the last couple of DECADES...
        I saw a scramjet model in Brisbane, Australia in 1987 which was being prepared to be put into the shock tunnel at the University of Queensland Mechanical Engineering Department. Some of the funding came from NASA - this IS the research that NASA has been doing over decades. It doesn't all happen in Texas guys, it's a big world out there.
    • To elaborate further, the Hyshot program is actually based out of the University of Queensland [uq.edu.au], (ie. Australia) and is very much NOT a British program. If anything, it's international. Yes, QinetiQ is a partner and did help, but the BBC isn't doing anything new by touting the local (to it) firm's part in things. The UQ website also notes USAF and CAF involvement.

      To quote from a SpaceDaily article [spacedaily.com] at the time of the last test:

      The Hyshot Consortium partners include Astrotech Space Operations, DTI and GAS

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:41PM (#14983642)
    and that will be obvious after my question........

    but couldn't they build it to survive impact into the ocean, and then retrieve it?

    I seem to remember the US space program doing this when they first went to the moon. And that man who singlehandedly built the rocket and went to the moon. What was his name? Apollo Creed? Anyways Tom Hanks was really great in that movie. Forest Gump I think it was.
    • by Lead Butthead (321013) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:02PM (#14983810) Journal
      At the speed the craft is traveling, crashing into a body of water isn't that different from crashing into a concrete wall. To allow the craft to survive, it has to decelerate first.
    • At those speeds, we don't have any materials that will survive impact with the ocean. In fact, the Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters, when they parachute gently into the ocean, sustain considerable damage to the aft end (nozzle & stuff IIRC). It's worth it to salvage the casings.

      Yes, I am a rocket scientist (well, I used to be).

    • by ChrisA90278 (905188) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @08:40PM (#14984764)
      "couldn't they build it to survive impact into the ocean, and then retrieve it?"

      Why spend the money to land it safely and retreive it? What would you do with it? There is no need to fly it again they already did the test. There are no plans to fly a second test with the same hardware they will do that with other hardware. Also, and more importently an aircraft that can fly at both hypersonic and slower speeds is _much_ more complex then one that can fly at only one speed

  • Crash! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Colgate2003 (735182) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:42PM (#14983651) Homepage
    From the article

    On its descent the engine is expected to reach a top speed of Mach 7.6 or over 9,000km/ hour.

    I think crash is a bit of an understatement!

  • Not the first time (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:42PM (#14983653)
    This has been done before, at Woomera test range. The University of Queensland launched HyShot in 2002, and had a major success.

    http://www.abc.net.au/science/slab/hyshot/default. htm [abc.net.au]
  • you know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by heatdeath (217147) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:43PM (#14983654)
    i realize everyone thinks they're cute by making cracks about how we don't want to test planes by crashing them, but it's actually pretty awesome that we're to the point where we can get all of the info we need about in-flight stuff in just 6 seconds, and that we don't have to worry about making the plane able to land in order to test the engine. it should speed up development time, and who knows, maybe a plane flight to tokyo won't put you in danger of deep vein thrombosis. =p

    good job, brits.
    • Re:you know... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:10PM (#14983865)
      a plane flight to tokyo won't put you in danger of deep vein thrombosis.

            Sure blame the plane flight for DVTs. I mean, forget about the fact you weight 300 lbs (around the same as your cholesterol level), smoke, take birth control pills and are diabetic. It's the plane trip that caused it...
      • Sure blame the plane flight for DVTs. I mean, forget about the fact you weight 300 lbs (around the same as your cholesterol level), smoke, take birth control pills and are diabetic. It's the plane trip that caused it...

        When some criminal shoots you in the arm, and you die of a heart-attack, they get charged with murder. You are responsible for problems you cause, irregardless of such contributing factors.

        Personally, I'd be more comfortable being loaded into an airplane in a coffin, rather than a coach seat

    • it's actually pretty awesome that we're to the point where we can get all of the info we need about in-flight stuff in just 6 seconds
      With the shock tunnel scramjet tests these guys were happy to have tests that lasted microseconds.
  • by Expert Determination (950523) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:44PM (#14983668)
    I'm sure they could suggest hundreds of places where they'd like to see a new crater. Two birds with one stone 'n' all that.
  • poor pilot (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    his worst job ever ...
  • I heard Donald Trump is trying to volunteer the current wife now that she has given birth. Time to move on ....
  • by thrill12 (711899) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:49PM (#14983713) Journal
    ... the inventor of this plan had with the senior manager in control of the budget:

    "So let's see, in short your plan is to fly a plane up to 35 kilometers in height above the mainland of Australia, switch off the engine, let it drop down with a highly experimental engine - this 'scramjet' - that you suppose would then go off automatically and accelerate the vehicle to a phenomenal speed, finishing it all off with a nice crash of that same million dollar plane into the ground ?"

    "Oh yeah mate, blimey, that's it - you got it in one row !"

    "You ever done this before ?"

    "Nah, if I would ave, I wouldn't be standing here mate, eh ?"

    "And this 'scramjet', it would ignite automatically ?"

    "Sure, that's what the manual says anyhow"

    "And while it sores over our Australian mainland with this high velocity, and when it enters the ground in the final stage, it would not have reached any, say, 'populated' areas?"

    "Nah mate, only a couple'a'dingos probably. Everything should be fine, unless things go wrong, but that's why we're testing eh, aye?"

    "You're absolutely right, I guess... Here's your money, and now don't screw up !"

    "Sure thing, won't screw up, and I will tell the same to the monkey that drives the controls ! Cheers mate !"

  • by jd (1658) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .kapimi.> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:51PM (#14983729) Homepage Journal
    To give the engine a fast initial velocity, rather than use a parabolic orbit in which the engine essentially has a standing start at 35 Km up. The engineers presumably know what they're doing, so I guess they've thought all this through, but I'd have strapped a couple of standard ramjets either side of the scramjet. At peak altitude, it would then be possible to accelerate the scramjet to near-ignition point using the ramjets. You've then got virtually the entire 35Km descent to do the scramjet testing.


    (Hydrogen-fuelled ramjets are useless above Mach 5, but that's about when the scramjet should ignite, so you really wouldn't need a whole lot of additional acceleration at that point. If they've got the ignition point within the limit, you could even switch directly from one to the other.)


    The other thing I don't like is that this is destructive testing. It's inescapable, given the approach they're using, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Their data collection has to be wireless, since no recording device is going to survive a mach 7 impact, but wireless is relatively slow. This means that they're going to be limited in what they can collect - what parameters, what accuracy, what resolution, etc.


    Normally, this wouldn't matter a great deal. But we're talking mach 7 speeds in a far denser atmosphere than most existing hypersonic travel (such as the shuttle re-entry) have taken place in. I believe there have been two successful scramjet flights in the past, so we have a little information on what happens under those conditions, but it seems somewhat... brave... if they are assuming they can interpolate between the few data points they'll be able to collect -and- extrapolate beyond the six seconds of flight.


    Again, I'm sure they have their reasons, but for novel engines under novel conditions, I'd have thought that getting as much data as humanly possible would be worth almost any additional effort.

    • Their data collection has to be wireless, since no recording device is going to survive a mach 7 impact, but wireless is relatively slow.

      The recently-launched SPACEWAY-3 communications satellite sports 10Gbps of bandwidth from geosynchronous orbit. I do not think wireless is as slow as you might be thinking.

      • But Spaceway-3 (when it's launced in 2007) is to be at 95W which is not accessible in Australia, As the test is taking place down under it would need to be a satellite parked around 160E. Unfortunately this means one of the Aussats or Asiasats which would not really be suitable for such a high velocity test.
    • by jayteedee (211241) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:37PM (#14984074)
      I'd have thought that getting as much data as humanly possible would be worth almost any additional effort.

      Ah....This ending pretty much explains the whole comment. You must be a physicist....certainly NOT an engineer. There is always diminishing returns on investment. You must pick a price point evaluate what you will get out of any test. More data is almost always better, but somebody has to pay out in the real (non-university) world.

      Other errors:
      There are solid state data recorders specifically made for high speed impacts. On the order of 100,000 G's. Place one in the back behind something heavy/solid and you shouldn't have any problem.

      Wireless can hit 10,000,000 bits/second with one channel. Throw a couple of S-band channels and you have a stout communication line to the ground. Plus the hardware (Rx stations) is already in place at most ranges.

      I assume they are doing the burn on the way down because they couldn't afford a rocket big enough to accelerate up to M=7.6 in a dense atmosphere. Plus they don't have to deal with all the heating issues while they are accelerating. Take a nice gentle ride at speeds up to M=3 or 4 and then use gravity to assist you up to the desired speed for the test. As an ENGINEER, I like their simple, low-cost solution to their test.
    • I'd have strapped a couple of standard ramjets either side of the scramjet.
      Rockets are cheap in comparison to jet engines.
      • On the other hand, building scramjets isn't cheap either. On the other hand, the more scramjets you need to get the same amount of data, the more expensive the research is, even if an individual experiment is cheaper. Ramjets aren't bad, pricewise (not much in them, although what there is has to be precisely engineered), they're not turbines. (Most ramjets in practical use are combinations of turbine and ramjet, because a pure ramjet won't function below 400 mph, so you can't go by what would be a standard
    • by MyNymWasTaken (879908) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @07:04PM (#14984234)
      The test scramjet will be attached to a rocket that takes it up to 330km being dropping back to Earth. It should hit the requisite speed at 35km.

      Also, what do you propose for a simple up & down trajectory that isn't parabolic?
      As for destructive testing, there would need to be a lot more work done to save a prototype that will never be used again and the primary datapoint they are looking doesn't require much resolution.

      "Did it light? Good."

      KISS!
      • You'd fire the rocket straight up, carrying the scramjet and ramjet(s). (If you have the ramjet directly behind the scramjet, as if another rocket stage, you only need one.) Once the rocket's fuel is exhausted, you release the rocket. You let the scramjet/ramjet collection continue to glide upwards until the speed dropped to about 500 mph. (You can let the speed get down to 400, but I'm allowing a safety margin, as you'd want to be certain the ramjets fired.)

        The ramjets fire at probably 32-34 Km (35 would b

  • by thejeek (952967) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @05:56PM (#14983771) Homepage
    it can only be deemed a failure if it *doesn't* crash? -- jeek
    • ... 'cos we've never left anyone up there yet.
      • Well, aviation has a 100% success rate ... 'cos we've never left anyone up there yet.

        No, that means gravity works.

        Anybody can achieve a ballistic trajectory ... it's landing and controlling properly that's complicated.

        Otherwise, I'm sure some drunken people with a trebuchet achieved the first flights in the middle ages. Kinda like these idiots [brettmartin.org] who decided to do just that.

        And, you gotta ask, just how many pints would you have to drink to decide you wanted to be launched out of such a device?

  • by martinultima (832468) <martinultima@gmail.com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:05PM (#14983829) Homepage Journal
    Until MythBusters decides to try this one!
  • Scramjet (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Scrambledjet
  • Uk to Aus (Score:2, Funny)

    by Rdickinson (160810)
    I always wondered hwo thre going to cut the flight time from the UK to Australia.

    looks like ther planning on taking the direct route....
  • It should be an awefully short video!
  • If everything goes to plan ... the £1m engine will eventually crash into the ground.

    Sounds like a British project to me :)

  • It sounds as if they are attempting to find a true replacement for the Concorde.
  • by Spy der Mann (805235) <{spydermann.slashdot} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:24PM (#14983975) Homepage Journal
    Begin test in 3...2...1... START!

    -At-choo!
    -Dude, WTF? Hit the RECORD BUTTON!
    -What?
    *CRASH*
    -Ah, nevermind.
  • If such a vehicle is launched at an angle towards the Earth, it would have a gravitational assist, that, with steering motors, could be used for an inverted slingshot effect, to launch a payload at escape velocity, expending (and needing) less fuel than would be nessesary for orbit. It would have the effect of using a hypersonic ramp for launch.

    Are there any real rocket scientists out there who can correct/disprove my hypothesis?
  • Some hurdles (Score:4, Informative)

    by quanminoan (812306) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:48PM (#14984138)
    Scramjets are really interesting. They are just as powerful as rocket engines should they work properly, but they don't have to carry around nearly as much fuel. Liquid hydrogen/oxygen fuel for a rocket has most of it's weight stored as the heavier oxygen. The scramjet and ramjet engines intend to scoop the oxygen from the atmosphere, reducing the weight of the aircraft by several times.

    The engineering behind the ramjet and scramjet couldn't be any more different. Ramjets are basically scramjet engines that purposefully slow the air intake so that combustion can occur. In a scramjet the big problem is that the air is moving so fast that when you ignite the fuel/air mixture, the combustion will actually take place outside the engine. It would be ridiculous to slow the air, so the problem lies in how you get the mixture to ignite sooner. To this end they are testing ionizing mixtures, etc. Some scramjet geometries are highly classified.

    Here's a good link that talks about the combustion issue: http://www.aip.org/tip/INPHFA/vol-10/iss-4/p24.htm l [aip.org]

    And of course some general information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scramjet [wikipedia.org]

    • I should think a major disadvantage is the formation of NOX. A quick search shows that there's work in that area (reducing NOX) but it can never be completely eliminated. So I'd guess the process itself apparently pollutes more than a fuel+LOX burn; though it may pan out better given less fuel required to burn.
  • by JustASlashDotGuy (905444) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:56PM (#14984181)
    Anything worth doing can be done in 6 seconds! ;)
  • by slughead (592713) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @06:57PM (#14984187) Homepage Journal
    ... Windows 98. No, seriously, think about it:

    The scientists will then have just six seconds to monitor its performance before the £1m engine eventually crashes into the ground.

    Replace the word "scientists" with "consumers", "£1m" with "$5b", and "engine" with "OS." Also, add the phrase "If it boots," before the statement.
  • A colleague of mine is the project manager for the HyShot [uq.edu.au] trial. It is being conducted at the Australian Defence Force's [defence.gov.au] Woomera test and evaluation range [defence-sa.com] and shooting north-west across the Australian desert.

    Woomera [powerup.com.au] and nearby areas has a long history of trials; several British designed rockets were trialled there, and several satellites were launched to earth orbit. Maralinga [arpansa.gov.au] was one Australian site of British atom bomb tests in the late '40s and '50s.

    HyShot is intended to be recovered, but it is a larg

  • Are they also going to try to find out what happens when you fling a frozen chicken at the windshield?

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