P&W Scramjet Engine Completes Mach 4.5 Ground Test

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The world's first flight-weight, hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet engine has achieved 4.5 Mach ground testing, Pratt & Whitney" announced last week at the Paris Air Show. Ground testing at 6.5 Mach is expected to be completed later this month. The project is working with Air Force researchers under the Hypersonic Technology (HyTech) Program. "We are on track for this program to change the aerospace industry forever, as this technology will create a paradigm shift in the way we employ propulsion for access-to-space and global-reach applications," P&W Space Propulsion President Larry Knauer said in a news release from Paris. The engine uses standard JP-7 fuel, while Australia's HyShot scramjet, which began flight-testing in 2001, uses hydrogen fuel. Hydrocarbons have less energy than hydrogen, but are easier to store and considered more practical for most applications. Pratt & Whitney expects to start flight-testing their design in 2006 or '07. The long-term vision for the scramjet engines include power for launch vehicles that can substantially reduce the cost of access to space, along with military and commercial aircraft that can span the globe in less than a few hours. Near-term applications include air-to-surface missiles with a Mach 6.5-plus cruise capability to fly hundreds of nautical miles in minutes.