25 March 2006

A$2 million scramjet experiment was launched at Woomera, 500km north of Adelaide, South Australia at approximately 1.45pm local time.

The University of Queensland-led HyShot™ III experiment uses a scramjet engine developed by UK company, QinetiQ.

The scramjet was attached to a Terrier-Orion rocket combination and aimed to fly at an estimated Mach 8 (or about 8000km/hr).

Click here to view footage of the liftoff and here to view preparations before the launch.

The rocket and the precious payload were taken to an altitude of 314km during a 10-minute flight.

They were then re-oriented to point backwards to the Earth. The experiment was set to take place in a tiny six-second window of opportunity shortly before impact.

An international team of researchers, led by The University of Queensland, is analysing data from the experiment.

HyShot™ program leader Professor Allan Paull said the liftoff was perfect and the rocket motors worked fine but it was too soon to tell if the launch had been a success.

"It looks good. We got data all the way," he said.

Professor Paull said scramjet powered passenger jets were still a long way off but it might be possible to have a scramjet powered vehicle within the next 10 years or so for applications such as carrying vital organs for urgently needed medical transplant operations.

HyShot™ team member Associate Professor Michael Smart said the flight followed the nominal trajectory and has now landed 400km down range.

"We know the area where it is," he said.

Dr Smart said it appeared from radar tracking of the experiment that everything was going to plan.

He had not appreciated he would feel so emotional at the takeoff.

"I almost had tears running down my cheeks."

QinetiQ researcher Rachel Owen said it was "very exciting" and she was very proud to see the scramjet fly.

Professor Paull said the team may be in a better position to make a statement about the experiment later today.

To view and download launch images: http://www.uq.edu.au/news/press/press-gallery.php

To view video footage of the liftoff: www.omc.uq.edu.au/video/hyshot/liftoff.mov and www.omc.uq.edu.au/video/hyshot/HyShot3.mov

Media contact: Jan King (UQ Communications) – 0413 601 248