Scramjet Engine Current Affairs

ISRO conducts successful test launch of scramjet engine

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for the first time has successfully conducted the Scramjet (or Supersonic Combusting ramjet) engine test.

The test was conducted from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikotta in Andhra Pradesh and has successfully has met all the intended parameters.

Key facts

  • The scramjet engine was test launched on board of RH 560 sounding rocket.
  • RH 560 sounding rocket is two stage Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV).
  • The ATV along with the scramjet engines weighed 3,277 kg at lift-off.
  • During the test, ATV was able to fly at Mach 6 (six times the speed of sound) speeds.
  • The scramjet uses hydrogen as fuel and oxygen from the atmospheric air as the oxidiser.
  • During the test, Air Breathing Propulsion System (ABPS) using hydrogen as fuel and oxygen from the atmosphere air as the oxidiser was successfully tested.

With this, India became only the fourth nation in the world to successfully flight-test a scramjet engine after United States, Russia and European Space Agency (ESA).

What is scramjet engine?

The scramjet engine works on the Air-breathing Propulsion System. The system uses natural oxygen present in the atmosphere to burn the fuel stored in the rocket. It reduces the amount of oxidiser to be carried along with the fuel, bringing down launch costs.

Benefits

  • This system would help in reducing the lift-off mass of the vehicle as there will be no need of carrying liquefied oxygen on board the vehicle.
  • In turn help in increasing the energy efficiency of the rocket and also make it cost-effective.
  • Scramjet does not have rotating parts so the chances of failure are also measurably reduced.
  • Currently, ISRO uses rocket launch vehicles like the PSLV to deliver satellites into orbit. But PSLVs are expendable i.e. it can only be used once.

Way forward

The new propulsion system would complement ISRO’s aim to develop a reusable launch vehicle that would have longer flight duration. This system involving the recently tested scramjet engine, would become crucial while sending up the spacecraft.

Special Note

This was not India’s first venture into scramjet technology. DRDO is working with Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia to develop the second generation Brahmos cruise missile (dubbed the Brahmos-II) powered by a scramjet . Brahmos-II is being designed to fly 300 odd kilometres at a speed of Mach 7. The current generation Brahmos is propelled using a liquid-fuelled ramjet engine. It makes it possible for the missile propel forward at up to Mach 3 speed, making it one of the fastest for a cruise missile in the world.

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ISRO to test indigenously developed scramjet engine

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is going to test indigenously developed scramjet engine technology based on air-breathing propulsion in July 2016.

The test will be conducted on test platform named Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.

Key Facts

  • The test platform ATV will comprise a scramjet engine hitched to a two-stage sounding rocket (RH- 560).
  • The vehicle has been characterised and being fabricated at the VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Center) and the ISRO Propulsion Complex, Mahendragiri.
  • The air-breathing engine of ATV will be released at a height of 70 km and ignited at hypersonic speed during the coasting phase.
  • Apart from the hypersonic ignition at Mach 6, ATV’s capability to sustain the combustion for 5 seconds will be also tested.
  • The test is expected to help ISRO to achieve good thrust value with the scramjet engine as maintaining combustion in hypersonic conditions poses technical challenges.

Comment

This test will be further advance stage of the successful test of the first indigenous Reusable Launch Vehicle-Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) conducted in May 2016. The post-flight analysis of RLV-TD test flight had shown encouraging results that had helped ISRO to understand the hypersonic aerothermodynamics of the delta winged body.

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