....NASA Scramjet Almost Ready ... Again

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Pratt & Whitney had luck with their own during ground tests, and now NASA, after blowing up its first scramjet prototype (for safety reasons) on a test flight in 2001, says it might be ready to test another unmanned X-43A X-43C in mid-December. "We have a tentative, and put a line under that word, test-flight date of mid-December," NASA spokesman Chris Rink told theage.com. Rink said the practical application of the technology for airliners is "decades away" but the pioneering folks at the University of Queensland aren't so sure. "NASA's going to fly their X-43A in the next couple of months and, given a chance, it's going to work, so the technology exists right now," said spokesman Allan Paull. While NASA burns up the U.S. taxpayers' money in its scramjet quest, the Queensland researchers have some basic logistical problems to overcome. They test their engine by strapping it to a missile that vaults to the edge of space and then descends at the speeds necessary to light the scramjet. Surplus missiles are hard to come by, even if you have the money. "There's ways and means to get one, but it's bloody hard," said Paull. "The Americans think you're going to send it back with a nuclear warhead on the side, or something." He hopes they can launch another test next year.