Sat, Jun 16, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Futuristic scramjet reaches mach 10 in Outback launch

AFP , SYDNEY

Australian and US scientists successfully launched a supersonic scramjet engine at an Outback test range yesterday, as they work on a device that could revolutionize air travel.

The researchers said that a rocket carrying the scramjet reached speeds of mach 10 -- 10 times the speed of sound -- after blasting off at the Woomera range in South Australia yesterday.

They said it reached an altitude of 530km before the scramjet was successfully deployed following re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere.

Australia's Defense Science and Technology Organization (DSTO) said it was believed to be the first time a scramjet had been ignited within the Earth's atmosphere.

"It looks like we've been very successful," DSTO spokesman Steve Butler said. "We've got to go away and collate the data, that will take a few weeks, but it looks very promising."

Scramjets are supersonic combustion engines that use oxygen from the atmosphere for fuel, making them lighter and faster than fuel-carrying rockets.

Scientists hope that one day a scramjet aircraft fired into space could cut traveling time from Sydney to London to as little as two hours.

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