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Hypersonic

Artist's concept of the SR-72 (Image: Lockheed Martin)

When the last SR-71 Blackbird was grounded in 1998 it was a double blow. Not only did aviation lose one of the most advanced aircraft ever built, but also one of the most beautiful. Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has now revealed that it is building a successor to the Blackbird: the SR-72. Using a new hypersonic engine design that combines turbines and ramjets, the company says that the unmanned SR-72 will be twice as fast as its predecessor with a cruising speed of Mach 6.  Read More

Artist's concept of the XS-1 spaceplane

Currently, launching satellites is an involved and expensive process. DARPA’s Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program hopes to make this a thing of the past, by developing a shuttle-like resuable launch system that can turn around from landing to relaunch in one day, and bring down the cost of launching by a factor of 10.  Read More

Professor Russell Boyce with a scale model of Scramspace

The University of Queensland’s Scramspace project hopes to launch its unmanned scramjet vehicle from a test range in Norway early next week. We caught up with Scramspace Director and Chair for Hypersonics at UQ, Professor Russell Boyce, who is in Norway for the test, to talk about Scramspace, the test flight, and the future of scramjet technology.  Read More

Artist's impression of Scramspace

A revolutionary jet engine capable of operating at eight times the speed of sound has arrived in Norway. Designed and built in Brisbane, Australia by the University of Queensland (UQ), the Scramspace is a hypersonic scramjet that will be fired by rocket in the Arctic Circle, where it will very briefly fly fast enough to travel from London to Australia in two hours. It’s part of a project to develop hypersonic technology that may one day be used to put payloads into orbit at a much lower cost than is possible today.  Read More

U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress from Edwards Air Force Base prepares to release the Bo...

It was fourth time lucky for Boeing’s X-51A Waverider, as it blasted into the history books on Monday. The fourth test of the hypersonic drone achieved the longest scramjet-powered hypersonic flight yet, hitting a top speed of Mach 5.1. Dropped from a B-52H bomber out of Edwards Air Force Base in California, the unmanned craft flew at top speed for three and a half minutes before it made a controlled dive into the Pacific Ocean after six minutes of flight.  Read More

Artists concept of the X-51A (Image: US Air Force)

The United States Air Force (USAF) has released the results of last August’s third test of the X-51a Waverider, which resulted in the crash of the unmanned scramjet demonstrator. At a press teleconference featuring the Program Manager for Air Force Research Laboratory, Charles Brink, it was confirmed that a malfunctioning fin was the cause of the crash. However, engineers are confident of correcting the fault in time for the fourth test flight scheduled for (Northern Hemisphere) late spring or early summer of next year.  Read More

Artists concept of the X-51A (Image: US Air Force)

Wright Patterson AFB has confirmed in an official press release that Tuesday’s test of the Waverider X-51A unmanned hypersonic missile has failed. Launched from a B-52 bomber over Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range at 11:36 AM PST, the separation from the bomber and ignition of the X-51A’s rocket booster went as planned. However, 16 seconds into the flight a fault occurred in one of the missile’s control fins before the scramjet could start and the X-51A was today officially reported as "lost." At present, there are no further official details, but the New York Daily News reports that the missile crashed into the Pacific Ocean while NBC News states that the X-51A broke up in flight and fell into the ocean "in pieces."  Read More

The Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) is an inflatable heat shield effective...

Legendary science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) scored another hit in the prediction department on Monday, July 23, 2012 when NASA tested an inflatable heat shield that he foresaw back in the 1980s. The test of the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) was launched by rocket into a suborbital trajectory from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA. The unmanned vehicle reached velocities of up to 7,600 mph (12,231 kph), yet was protected from atmospheric heating by the mushroom-shaped shield.  Read More

The HX will travel at Mach-20, or over 15,000 mph (24,000 km/h)

DARPA has repeatedly indicated an interest in developing hypersonic aircraft and weapons systems which are capable of Mach-20 speeds and thus able to reach any region of the planet within an hour. To this end, the agency has announced its new Integrated Hypersonics (IH) program, which draws upon previous research and aims to create a hypersonic X-plane (HX) ready for testing by 2016.  Read More

NASA inflatable reentry vehicle during plasma phase of Mars landing (Image: NASA)

Your spacecraft is falling from the skies at an initial speed of Mach 25. Your reentry heat shield, that has to survive a 7,800 degrees Celsius (14,072° F) plasma shock, is a finely tuned hi-tech amalgam of refractory metals and carbides and reinforced carbon-carbon ablation materials. Care to replace your mighty heat shield with a balloon? Not likely! But that is exactly what NASA is considering.  Read More

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