India tests Mach 6 scramjet

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully tested a Mach 6 scramjet.

Scramjets ignite a stream of gas moving at supersonic speed. The result is serious energy and the ability to hit astounding speeds it's hoped might one day make air travel less tedious, or provide a method of lifting spacecraft high into the atmosphere so that rockets have a lesser role in lifting and accelerating payloads into orbit.

The craft flew on Sunday and first fired a booster rocket and a second stage rocket before firing up the scramjet for five seconds.

In a 300-second flight, the vehicle travelled approximately 320km.

India's chuffed at the experiment's success, as scramjets have a habit of blowing up in flight. That's because managing supersonic gas flows and the resulting controlled explosion is very, very difficult.

India says “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 launch means India joins the USA, Australia and Russia as successful scramjet operators. Joining that list is swelling national pride in the world's most populous nation. ®

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