Woomera range, Australia: A rocket carrying the HyCAUSE scramjet engine was launched from the Woomera range test facility in South Australia on Friday. The rocket reached an altitude of 530 kilometres before re-entering the earth's atmosphere allowing the scramjet engine to be successfully ignited. The Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) said the scramjet achieved reached 10 times the speed of sound during the test.
As different from conventional rockets, scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) engines use oxygen from the atmosphere to burn onboard fuel. Conventional rockets carry their own oxygen to burn fuel, which ensure that they remain bulky vehicles for space travel. Scramjets are intended to resolve that problem.
HyCAUSE stands for Hypersonic Collaborative Australia/United States Experiment, a collaborative project between the DSTO and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Aircraft flying at Mach 10 could cut traveling time between Sydney and London to as little as two hours. Hypersonic planes could also slash the cost of sending satellites into space, because the weight saved by not carrying onboard oxygen fuel could be used to increase the payload.
A number of countries, such as Italy, Japan, Australia, the USA and India are in the race to successfully develop scramjet technology.