17 September 2001

A British scramjet engine belonging to QinetiQ (formerly the bulk of the MOD's Defence Evaluation & Research Agency) is to be tested during the "HyShot" flight tests in the Australian desert in October.

HyShot is an international space project led by The University of Queensland (UQ) which involves the launch of two Terrier Orion rockets fitted with scramjets in experiments at Woomera, 500km north of Adelaide.

The QinetiQ scramjet engine has been prepared for flight on October 30 and will fly at an estimated Mach 7.6 (7.6 times the speed of sound). This will follow a mission on October 24 using a scramjet designed by researchers in UQ's Centre for Hypersonics.

Scramjets are air-breathing supersonic combustion ramjet engines. They are set to revolutionise the launch of small space payloads, such as communications satellites, by substantially lowering costs. They could make flights of only several hours between Australia and Britain possible.

It is hoped the experiment will validate information already captured in UQ's T4 ground shock tunnel, one of the few facilities on earth capable of conducting ground based scramjet experiments for flight Mach numbers of the order of 8 or higher. The British scramjet engine is currently in Australia undergoing ground tests at the T4 shock tunnel.

"Working with UQ has been valuable as we share the same objectives to see if the ground test results are comparable to tests in flight, and secondly, to gain first hand experience in preparing and flying a hypersonic vehicle" says Dr Terry Cain, QinetiQ project leader.

"Scramjets are simple in principle and appearance but subtle variations can significantly affect performance," Dr Cain said. "Our combustor geometry is based on designs with good measured performance in ground tests"

"Our engine has a lower combustor entry temperature than the UQ design with less compression of the captured air. This has the advantage of lower intake losses but the disadvantage that it is difficult to get the fuel to ignite and burn. "The QinetiQ prototype is cylindrical with four combustors around the outside. The aerodynamics of the vehicle is improved by this arrangement but it wasn't cheap to manufacture. It was cast from stainless steel where as the UQ engine was assembled from copper plates."

The HyShot project uses the expertise and financial support of consortium partners such as Astrotech Space Operations, DTI and GASL, QinetiQ, NASA Langley Research Center, The DSTO (Defence Science and Technology, Organisation), Seoul National University, the DLR (German Aerospace Center), NAL (National Aerospace lab. Japan), AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory, USA), and Australian Space Research Institute (ASRI). Australian firms, Alesi Technologies, NQEA, AECA, Luxfer Australia. BAE Systems Australia assists by providing operational and logistic support.

Funding has also been secured from the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, the Australian Research Council and assistance and support from the UK Ministry of Defence. Engineers from Oxford University who contributed to the aerodynamic testing will join British Ministry of Defence and QinetiQ staff at the HyShot flights.

ARDU (Aircraft Research and Development Unit, Australian Defence) will command the one month campaign at Woomera. In addition, DSCW (Defence Corporate Support, Woomera) have facilitated liaison with Aboriginal and pastoral interests and have provided essential range information.

NOTES TO EDITORS The University of Queensland has been developing scramjets for the past 16 years with funding from Australian, U.S., Japanese and German sources. Development has been possible through the use of the T4 shock tunnel. The UQ scramjet activities took a new direction when, Dr Paull, with Emeritus Professor Stalker and Dr Mee in 1993, "flew" a complete scramjet prototype in the T4 shock tunnel and showed that it was possible to generate more thrust than drag with these engines - the essence of any propulsion system.
QinetiQ, formerly the larger part of DERA (Defence Evaluation and Research Agency) incorporates the bulk of the MOD's non-nuclear research, technology and test and evaluation establishments in its heritage.
QinetiQ is one of Europe's largest research organisations. Among its 8,000 staff, in excess of 6,500 are scientists and engineers, and many lead their field and are internationally acclaimed experts As DERA its pioneering research and development last century included the invention of liquid crystal displays (LCDs), carbon fibre, the technology for flat panel speakers, infra-red sensors and microwave radar, as well as Chobham armour, and shaped charges. DERA combined and inherited the technology and expertise from Government defence research sites throughout the UK.

Media contacts

QinetiQ Press office +44 (0) 1252 392809/394611 email jsale@QinetiQ.com
Jan King, UQ Communications, telephone 07 3365 1120/0413 601 248.

Technical contacts

Dr Allan Paull, telephone 07 33653783 email:allan@mech.uq.edu.au, Dr Susan Anderson, telephone 07 3365 3581, email:anderson@mech.uq.edu.au,


Stories: www.uq.edu.au/news/hyshot
HyShot pix are available at: http://photos.cc.uq.edu.au/HYSHOT/
Dr Cain and Dr Paull with scramjets: http://photos.cc.uq.edu.au/HYSHOT/4468-26.jpg