Scramjet is not a word most of us are familiar with. However, when it is associated with ISRO, the nation’s space research organization that we are all justifiably proud of, we all want to know a little bit more. We look at what Scramjet technology is and why ISRO’s successful scramjet engine test is significant.
The term refers to Supersonic Combustion Ramjets which can have several different military and civil applications. Many believe that this technology has the potential to change the future of aviation as we know it because of its ability to achieve amazing speeds while using little fuel and giving out low emissions.
According to the ISRO website, a successful test fire of a solid rocket booster carrying Scramjet engines was carried out from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota on, 28 August. This is the first mission towards the realization of the successful creation of an air breathing propulsion system.
The technology has the potential to change the way rockets are launched by reducing its weight by about 50%. Since it doesn’t use liquid oxygen for launch, the rocket becomes much lighter and the mission becomes much cheaper. ISRO developed and designed the hypersonic engine air intake using materials that can withstand very high temperatures and was able to ensure operability via this test.
Though it seems rather futuristic, the application of the technology to commercial aircraft is a real possibility. Lighter air craft, less fuel expended, less travel time and cheaper air tickets would be something we can all get on board with!
Like the previous MARS orbiter mission that famously cost less than an auto rickshaw ride of the same distance, the Scramjet technology is also homegrown by ISRO scientists. Described as trying to “light a match in a hurricane”, ISRO’s successful test is all the more creditable for being homegrown.
According to ISO, “critical technologies such as ignition of air breathing engines at supersonic speed, holding the flame at supersonic speed, air intake mechanism and fuel injection systems have been successfully demonstrated.”
The United States, Russia and the European Space Agency have successfully demonstrated the testing of scramjet technology and India is now the fourth.
Described as a “modest yet important” milestone, there are further challenges in store. The aim will be to continue research and development towards the ultimate aim of creating actual advanced air breathing engines for future space programs and other applications. Something this cool and futuristic perhaps?
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