30 October 2001

The University of Queensland today (October 30) will lead an international project to flight test the supersonic combustion process used in a scramjet for the first time in the world.

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.

The University`s Centre for Hypersonics is leading the project to launch two Terrier Orion Mk70 rockets fitted with hypersonic air-breathing engine (scramjet) engines at the Woomera Prohibited Area, 500km north of Adelaide, this morning. A second flight will be held next week.

University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor Professor John Hay said he wished the HyShot team well in their endeavours to underscore Australia’s position at the forefront of hypersonic technological research.

“The University is proud of its Centre for Hypersonics and applauds the HyShot team members led by Dr Allan Paull for their vision,” he said.

"The objectives of the HyShot program can be equated to breaking the sound barrier in flight, but for HyShot, it will be the combustion sound barrier that is broken.

"The mission objectives are first and foremost scientific," he said. "Successful scramjets flights will be a major engineering achievement. And even though the goals are far more reaching, just getting the payload to the launch pad will be an achievement and a well worthwhile exercise in itself. Its undertaking has provided an arena for greater international collaboration, and has involved student and staff participation at all levels.

“This is an example of international scientific co-operation at its best, attracting the goodwill of universities, governments and scientists in Australia, the U.K., the U.S., Germany, France, Korea and Japan.

“The HyShot project has also provided impetus for further research funding for the Centre for Hypersonics and its related activities.”

He said that a successful outcome from the HyShot program would mean that The University of Queensland would be the only institution in the world that had undertaken extensive scramjet testing and now had a shock tunnel calibrated against flight for supersonic combustion.

"It will also be the only university in the world to undertake such a challenging experimental program in hypersonics," he said. "The correlation between supersonic combustion in flight and that observed in a wind tunnel will be unique, and of major significance from a scientific standpoint.

Professor Hay thanked all project partners, and in particular, the Australian Defence Ministry, which had been pivotal to the testing program proceeding at Woomera.

Media: For further information, contact Peter McCutcheon (telephone 07 3365 1088, mobile 0413 380 012) or Jan King (mobile 0438 320274) at UQ Communications.