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NASA Provides Results Of Scramjet Test 176

Posted by michael
from the they've-gone-plaid dept.
Guinnessy writes "Last March, NASA carried out the world's first test flight of a scramjet-powered aircraft. The Industrial Physicist has the latest results from this test. According to the article scramjet-powered missiles and aircraft could be in mass production as early as 2010. This piece is also a good introduction for those unfamilar with scramjet technology."
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NASA Provides Results Of Scramjet Test

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  • by JoeShmoe950 (605274) <CrazyNorman@gmail.com> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:09AM (#10030928) Homepage
    I want a scramjet powered heatsink to OC my CPU (ok, it make it hotter, but anyway...)
  • Great news! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:17AM (#10030951) Homepage Journal
    One thing that has often concerned me is the matter of lift from the wings/lifting body. Obviously this design should be able to go into orbit with a relatively minor assist from rocket engines. However, how much lift does it actually get? Is it possible to build a craft that can use wing lift all the way up to LEO? If so, could it then be possible to obtain a flight envelope on the way back down?

    The primary reason why I've concerned myself with this, is that the Space Shuttle literally "falls" out of orbit in a very steep dive. The idea is to re-enter somewhere over the Pacific and shed enough speed to land just before the Atlantic. Obviously, it was important the normal flight operations didn't overfly the USSR. The problem with this sort of profile is that the Shuttle takes on a tremendous heat load from the aero-braking. Yet there's nothing really inherent in the atmosphere that says the the Shuttle MUST take on that load.

    To get to the point, would it be possible to return in a glide or powered flight without the requirement of a heat shield? i.e. Could a vehicle obtain a thin-atmosphere flight envelope and reduce its speed at a more gradual rate? Perhaps even to the point where no shielding is required?

    Any aerospace engineers in the know want to comment?
    • Re:Great news! (Score:5, Informative)

      by AeroNate (740123) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:40AM (#10031007)
      Any aerospace engineers in the know want to comment?

      Well, I am not an expert in reentry, but I'll take a crack at your question. I think the important thing is not maximum heating, but rather some integral of heating over time. If the shuttle or other vehicle entered more gradually, it may be that it would actually reach a higher temperature because it would have more time to soak up the heat from the plasma around it. No matter how well you insulate something, eventually it has to reach practically the same temperature as its surroundings. You hope to get on the ground long before that happens.

      Wings are heavy and delicate, and it would be hard to imagine that they could be large enough to significantly lift the craft at high altitude and lower speed and still survive the heating. (The heavier the wings are, the more kinetic energy you need to dissipate to slow down--and the more heating you get.) IMHO wings are a dumb thing to carry into space with you. Lifting bodies are better.
    • IANAAE but it seems to me that in order to re-enter more slowly you'd actually have to fire up your engines which may have consequences.
    • Re:Great news! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Phanatic1a (413374) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @03:24AM (#10031111)
      Is it possible to build a craft that can use wing lift all the way up to LEO?

      Maybe.

      In a real gas, aerodynamic lift is always accompanied by aerodynamic drag, and the ratio of the two is not dependent upon density or pressure or altitude. Until the point at which you actually achieve orbit, if you are relying upon aerodynamic lift to keep you in the sky, there's a certain amount of drag you have to overcome just to keep accelerating, and you can't make that problem go away by playing with the altitude.

      The absolute best hypersonic lifting body designs anyone's been able to come up with, even theoretically on paper, have lift:drag ratios on the order of 10:1, so you need a thrust:weight ratio of at least .1:1 to keep accelerating.
    • Re:Great news! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hakubi_Washu (594267)
      Hm,
      I'm no expert either, but I would tend to think that the re-entry problem is not height, but the speed required to stay in orbit. In order to return to earth you hve to reduce speed pretty heavily (The reason SpaceShipOne didn't "reach orbit" was that it can't ever reach the necessary speed in the first place). If you don't do this "fast" enough you'll not reach earth surface, but continue to orbit, albeit way more eccentric. It is possible to land in this way, a lot of mars flight plans include this mul
    • Re:Great news! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Planetes (6649) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @03:51AM (#10031150)

      However, how much lift does it actually get? Is it possible to build a craft that can use wing lift all the way up to LEO? If so, could it then be possible to obtain a flight envelope on the way back down?


      This depends entirely in how you define leo. In order to reach what is generally considered space (100km+) you will be outside 99% of the atmosphere. This means that the atmospheric density is extremely low. So low that the normal rules of fluid mechanics are invalid and you have to treat air as a rarified gas. This is statistics based rather than standard calculus based. The extremely low density effectively means that lift from the wings/lifting body is essentially zero unless you have an extremely large surface area. In fact, at this point, drag and the erosion from atomic oxygen and free hydrogen are much more prevalent than the force of lift. As a result, once you reach this point lift is essentially zero although the engines would continually accelerate you to the necessary orbital velocity.

      In other words, lift would be dependent on your surface area of the wings. This will get you to the top of the atmosphere. At which point, you have to use pure thrust to reach orbit. In addition, once you reach a certain point the O2 levels drop to the point where a scramjet is useless and you need to use conventional rockets.

      Orbit is more a function of speed than a function of lift or drag. ISS uses reboosts periodically to compensate for the fact that LEO actually exists within the upper atmosphere and it's subject to a drag force.
      • Re:Great news! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jafac (1449)

        Orbit is more a function of speed than a function of lift or drag.


        Exactly right.

        One coule achieve orbit at "sea level" so long as one was going fast enough, could somehow maintaint that speed given the aerodynamic drag at that altitude, and encountered no terrain obstacles.

        The hope of the Scramjet is;
        Obtain enough velocity while still within the atmosphere to attain orbital velocity, while overcoming drag via engine thrust. Of course, the vehicle will eventually run out of fuel, so the next aim is;
        At
        • (say - a modified C-5, carrying a large booster to an altitude of say, like 60,000 feet or so (what's the C-5's service ceiling?)

          ISTR that it is a bit over 40,000 feet. What you would want is something like a scaled up RB-57F.

    • Is it possible to build a craft that can use wing lift all the way up to LEO?

      To a useful LEO, no. I think that would require that there be atmosphere all the way up to said LEO.

      LEO is considered to be any orbit below about 1500 kilometers. 100 kilometers is the agreed upon border between atmosphere and space.

      is that the Space Shuttle literally "falls" out of orbit in a very steep dive

      My understanding is that it does this because a shallower descent would cuase the shuttle to skip off the atmosphere l
      • My understanding is that it does this because a shallower descent would cuase the shuttle to skip off the atmosphere like a stone off a pond.

        In any case, you have to ablate that energy somehow.

        That is all quite true.However, the question is can you reduce the rate enough that you don't have to resort to fragile tiles to handle the heat load.

        For example, skipping off of the atmosphere need not be bad, since the time you spend in the skip is cooling you off. Each dip deeper into the atmosphere conve

        • I think skipping off the atmosphere might be considered dangerous. And think about how much fuel you'd spend controlling the thing, instead of the control surfaces usable in the atmosphere.

          There's also the time spent landing. You might have to take tenfold the amount of time to reduce the heat load to wear convential aircraft metal could take it. (Average orbit speed for the shuttle is about 17000 mph. Landing speed is 215 mph.)

          • I think skipping off the atmosphere might be considered dangerous.

            That's entirely believable. It certainly makes for a complex problem. I do wonder though, if part of the problem is that it would require dynamic adjustments to the plan, while NASA is addicted to scripting anything that lasts longer than a second or so.

            There would be opportunity to use atmospheric forces for control though. If it produces enough force to bounce the craft back into space, it produces enough force to make attitude adjus

    • You don't really have to worry about wings or air availability at altitude if you can reach escape velocity.

      From the earth's surface escape velocity is 25000mph. Mach 1 is 760mph, so escape velocity is mach 32. Ofcourse, that ignores air friction, and I have no idea whether a scramjet could ever reach that speed.

      Ofcourse, the higher you go, the lower the escape velocity becomes. So maybe someone who actually knows what they're talking about can tell us how fast you would need to go at altitudes where the
      • It should be noted that there is a difference between escape velocity and orbital velocity. Escape velocity is the delta V necessary to escape the gravity well. Orbital velocity is simply the V necessary to keep missing whatever object you're falling toward. All orbits are conic sections. A vehicle with a V greater than Vescape will be in an orbit with an open section (i.e. a hyperbolic orbit) and those under Vescape will be in a closed elliptical orbit.

        To answer your question, Vescape for an object is
    • Could a vehicle obtain a thin-atmosphere flight envelope and reduce its speed at a more gradual rate?

      That's what the Shuttle does. Doing that reduces the temperature on the skin of the aircraft- but at a big price- the vehicle is reentering for longer- and hence more heat energy leaks into the vehicle. That's why the Shuttle looks like an inside-out kiln.

      Perhaps even to the point where no shielding is required?

      At the hypersonic lift ratios that are actually achieved, this is not quite possible. Howeve

  • just what we need (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:19AM (#10030956)
    The 2003 engine has the potential to power future missiles, aircraft, and access-to-space vehicles. Last year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.S. Navy, Boeing, Aerojet, and Johns Hopkins University also ground-tested a scramjet engine, which was constructed primarily from nickel alloys, powered by JP10 jet fuel, and intended exclusively for hypersonic missiles.

    Great. So now we'll have missiles that can do mach 15. It's being billed for aircraft as well, but nobody seems to have addressed issues of, gee, say, it only being useful at incredible altitudes. Nevermind that the airline industry is crumbling requiring massive bailouts from the Feds, and the only supersonic aircraft to date to do commercial passenger flights was never profitable in almost 40 years of operation.

    The most influential of these efforts was NASA's National Aerospace Plane (NASP) program, established in 1986 to develop a vehicle with speed greater than Mach 15 and horizontal takeoff and landing capabilities. The program ended in 1993,

    "The program ended"? What a polite way of saying "we failed. But along the way we spent almost 10 years and probably billions on some futuristic space plane with no real purpose."

    I'm sick of NASA justifying themselves as an organization for exploration and science- when they're instead spending most of their time (and my money) on weapons platform research and lining defense contractor pockets. We haven't managed to do anything for millions of Americans with no health insurance , our kids are dumb as bricks because their schools are cutting programs and staff, and our police/fire/ems departments are laying off staff left and right from budget cuts...but hey, we've got a plane that can do mach 15 at 100,000 feet! Sweet!

    • The problem is that killing NASA won't solve those problems you state or remotely fund a fix on any of them, unless you want an emotional band-aid.

      The Federal budget shouldn't be used to pay for local services such as police/fire/EMS. There's a sepration of powers that needs to be there. Federal funding of local services usually means strings attached, and too often those strings are nearly as much or more expensive than the money provided.

      The things wrong with the educational system goes far deeper tha
      • by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:43AM (#10031012)
        The problem is that killing NASA won't solve those problems you state or remotely fund a fix on any of them, unless you want an emotional band-aid.

        I see. So we should just keep throwing money at defense technology? We spend more on defense per capita than the next top three nations combined- do you realize that includes North Korea, widely considered to be a "military state"?

        The problem is that taxes are all interlinked, because they're all paid by you and me out of the same place- our bank accounts. So when federal taxes go up, guess what? That means more political pressure on state and local politicians. They have to cut local and state taxes because people are screaming blue bloody murder that their taxes are outrageous. Perfect example- MA's governor, Mitt Romney, wants to slash taxes- but his last budget severely cut funding for a lot of very important stuff- programs for the mentally ill and money for state colleges, for example. There's no money left in the coffers for improving the state's roads- even though we have a fantastic system of arteries in Boston now, soon as you get off them, you find some of the shittiest roads in the country.

        You want local services to be locally funded? Fine. Cut the money out of the budget- don't redirect it to "terrorism" crap or defense stuff- I want to see my federal tax bill for 2005 go down. Second, get corporations back to footing half the taxes, like they did in the 1950's, instead of the 2% of today.

        The things wrong with the educational system goes far deeper than money, throwing more money at it without solving the other problems would only make things worse, IMO.

        When schools have to shut down all their extracurricular activities and students have to share BOOKS in this day and age- uh, I beg to differ. Throwing money is EXACTLY what needs to be done. But, enior citizens hate taxes, don't have kids in school, and vote in large numbers.

        • by nmos (25822) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:55AM (#10031036)
          I see. So we should just keep throwing money at defense technology? We spend more on defense per capita than the next top three nations combined- do you realize that includes North Korea, widely considered to be a "military state"?

          All good stuff but even if you consider NASA part of "defense technology" and ignore all of the areas it contributes to it's still only a very tiny fraction of our defense spending. Even cutting NASA completely wouldn't change the stat you quoted at all.
        • by bhima (46039) <Bhima.Pandava@gma i l . com> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @03:28AM (#10031117) Journal
          I mostly agree with your post, but since I'm a space fan boy I can't resist to comment. I think NASA is researching stuff that will get funded and unfortunately to do that they begin with technology with obvious military uses. I've read a lot of articles on this propulsion system and I just can see it ever really making it out of military use. The efficiency of this is poor and that would drive costs up and that is one of the things that killed the concord. I fly to the US a couple of times a year and while I would like to have a dramatically shorter flight I'm not willing to pay more than I already have to (although I generally upgrade)

          Oh and I find you comments about school books to be misplaced. The real problem with school books is that the whole publishing system is a corrupt money grab and is unrelated to the corrupt money grab that exists in the industrial military complex (other than the fact they both shows flaws inherent in the capitalist system).

        • I see. So we should just keep throwing money at defense technology? We spend more on defense per capita than the next top three nations combined- do you realize that includes North Korea, widely considered to be a "military state"?

          thats essentially been your economic policy for the last 60 years. In a reccession, you spend like crazy to get out. But you spend liek crazy on military industrial expenditures. Even Nasa is a psuedo military complex, since many innovatiosn from Nasa aid the military.

          In other
        • We spend more on defense per capita than the next top three nations combined- do you realize that includes North Korea, widely considered to be a "military state"?

          The next three nations? Try the next ten: spending comparison link (sorry, a pdf) [policyalmanac.org]

          Sean

        • If you want to cut the military, cut the military. Comparitively, the NASA budget is peanuts. Don't try to cut the NASA budget for space exploration thinking you are making any sort of significant dent in military spending.

          The problem with schools is still more than money. Schools can have all the money in the world, but if the community does not support education, it is moot. If parents de-facto regard school as a babysitter program and yet still don't allow any form of discipline or educational chall
        • Second, get corporations back to footing half the taxes, like they did in the 1950's, instead of the 2% of today.

          Businesses don't pay taxes. They take money that they receive from their customers (which, at some point, comes from you and me) and divert some of that to the government. If their taxes go up, they pass the increase along to their customers as higher prices for their goods and/or services. The end result is that you end up paying more for the stuff you buy.

        • Spending more on defense per capita has nothing to do with being a military state. North Korea's militaty expenditures as percent of GDP are way higher that the US statistic.

          Hell, I bought a handgun once during a year I had practically no income. By your definition, I was a military state in 1986.

    • by Behrooz (302401) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:46AM (#10031018)
      It is just what we need. Or rather, it's a good stepping stone on the way to orbit.

      Mach 15 at 100,000 feet is 10,200 MPH, which is also roughly equivalent to the following critical hurdles to cheap space travel:

      10% of the ~185-mile altitude required for a stable orbit.
      59% of the ~7.7 km/sec required to achieve low-earth orbital velocity.

      NASA's budget is a drop in the bucket, approximately $15B out of total discretionary spending exceeding $850B, with a total federal budget exceeding $2.2 trillion... hah.

      Hypersonic aerospace research is a good idea simply on its own merits, regardless of present applications. I certainly look forward to 90-minute sub-orbital shuttles from London to Tokyo, and being able to put things in orbit for less than $10,000/pound.
      • NASA's budget is a drop in the bucket, approximately $15B. . .

        damn. . . we just LOST half that amount in Iraq. (LOST, as in, "anybody seen my wallet?")

        Hypersonic aerospace research is a good idea simply on its own merits, regardless of present applications. I certainly look forward to 90-minute sub-orbital shuttles from London to Tokyo, and being able to put things in orbit for less than $10,000/pound.

        This is EXACTLY the kind of thing NASA is for. (not just pretty pictures from Hubble).

        Private indu
    • Nice to see I can get modded up to 4 by people who agree with me about space/defense funding.

      ...and then 5 minutes later modded down for being "flamebait". Happens every time I post a comment that goes contrary to the "because it's there" space fanboyism.

      God forbid someone should express an opinion that's unpopular, right folks?

      • Space funding and defense funding are two different issues. I can point to *many* concrete improvements in our lives due to technological spinoffs from the Space program.

        Defense funding, on the other hand... has less to recommend it.
        • I can point to *many* concrete improvements in our lives due to technological spinoffs from the Space program.

          Name a single one that came from:

          • Any of the dozens of rocketplanes
          • NASA putting astronauts on the moon
          • Skylab
          • Any of the mars missions
          • Putting humans in space, period
          • by FatBobSmith (555928) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @03:26AM (#10031113)
            Tang.
          • by gilroy (155262) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @03:34AM (#10031130) Homepage Journal
            OK. By the way, this is from less than two minutes of a Google search... it's particularly low-hanging fruit available to anyone who's open enough to actually, you know, look.

            "Commercially available infant formulas now contain a nutritional enrichment ingredient that traces its existence to NASA-sponsored research that explored the potential of algae as a recycling agent for long duration space travel." (ref [seds.org])

            Ski wear: "The NASA association began back in the 1970s, when Comfort Products adapted astronaut protective clothing technology to ski boot design. Specifically, the company borrowed heating element circuitry that kept Apollo astronauts warm or cool in the temperature extremes of the Moon, and used it to create built-in rechargeable footwarming devices that were supplied to leading ski boot manufacturers." (ref [seds.org], emphasis added)

            "In 1965, Johnson Space Center contracted with the University of Minnesota to explore the then-known but little-developed concept of impedance cardiography (ICG) as a means of astronaut monitoring. A five-year program led to the development of the Minnesota Impedance Cardiograph (MIC), an electronic system for measuring impedance changes across the thorax that would be reflective of cardiac function and blood flow from the heart's left ventricle into the aorta... the cost of the thermodilution technique [the old, invasive way] runs five to 17 times that of IQ monitoring [the new, NASA-developed way]"(ref [seds.org])

            "GROUND PROCESSING SCHEDULING SYSTEM - Computer-based scheduling system that uses artificial intelligence to manage thousands of overlapping activities involved in launch preparations of NASA's Space Shuttles. The NASA technology was licensed to a new company which developed commercial applications that provide real-time planning and optimization of manufacturing operations, integrated supply chains, and customer orders" (ref [thespaceplace.com])

            "STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS - This NASA program, originally created for spacecraft design, has been employed in a broad array of non-aerospace applications, such as the automobile industry, manufacture of machine tools, and hardware designs."(ref [thespaceplace.com])

            "SCRATCH-RESISTANT LENSES - A modified version of a dual ion beam bonding process developed by NASA involves coating the lenses with a film of diamond-like carbon that not only provides scratch resistance, but also decreases surface friction, reducing water spots." (ref [thespaceplace.com])

            "MICROSPHERES - The first commercial products manufactured in orbit are tiny microspheres whose precise dimensions permit their use as reference standards for extremely accurate calibration of instruments in research and industrial laboratories. They are sold for applications in environmental control, medical research, and manufacturing."(ref [thespaceplace.com])

            "SOLAR ENERGY - NASA-pioneered photovoltaic power system for spacecraft applications was applied to programs to expand terrestrial applications as a viable alternative energy source in areas where no conventional power source exists."(ref [thespaceplace.com])

            "DIGITAL IMAGING BREAST BIOPSY SYSTEM - The LORAD Stereo Guide Breast Biopsy system incorporates advanced Charge Coupled Devices (CCDs) as part of a digital camera system. The resulting device images breast tissue more clearly and efficiently. Known as stereotactic large-core needle biopsy, this nonsurgical system developed with Space Telescope Technology is less traumatic and greatly reduces the pain, scarring, radiation exposure, time, and money associated with surgical biopsies."(

          • by mj_1903 (570130) *
            How about any of NASA's R&D to do exactly those things? If I recall correctly, the shape of the wings on many aircraft today are a direct descendant from research that NASA did on aircraft wings. Interestingly you may also not know that NASA found that a wing that was upside down with a small lip on the end was actually the best wing in terms of performance.

            Composite structures in aircraft, such as the tail of the 777 or much of the Airbus super jumbo, owe a great deal to NASA's research.

            Many new th
          • Some more things:
            • Fuel-cell technology was advanced for use in the space shuttle.
            • Great advances were made to make the heat shield for the shuttle. I'm sure the glue (even though imperfect) was a big advance also.
            • To get people to Mars and back will require many more breakthroughs, since they will be in space for a few months at least. Problems include developing very efficient energy systems like better solar cells and batteries. They may have to get rocket fuel from the ice on Mars. (I don't kno
        • Every time someone says "I can point to *many* concrete improvements in our lives due to technological spinoffs from the Space program."

          The first thing I think of is Tang!

      • If you write a polemic, you shouldn't be surprised when it gets modded as flamebait.

    • First off, pure R&D (like the kind that drives actual human development, technological advancement, and industry creation) doesn't often deliver immediate industrial benefits or applications. It is only over time as ideas are refined, enhanced, and evolved that they often find a purpose.

      Hell, LOOK AT THE INTERNET. Do you know how much money is literally DUMPED into DARPA every year that doesn't do diddly squat? Yet every so often you get something that just explodes. Do you think the original devel
    • by Bi()hazard (323405) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @04:32AM (#10031225) Homepage Journal
      The parent post sounds suspiciously like a troll, but it's been modded up enough to deserve an analysis of its claims.

      Great. So now we'll have missiles that can do mach 15. It's being billed for aircraft as well, but nobody seems to have addressed issues of, gee, say, it only being useful at incredible altitudes. Nevermind that the airline industry is crumbling requiring massive bailouts from the Feds, and the only supersonic aircraft to date to do commercial passenger flights was never profitable in almost 40 years of operation.

      Most people don't like missiles, but access-to-space vehicles that operate at incredible altitudes are very useful. We have a lot of very useful satellites up there, and these "space planes" could make those satellites a lot cheaper. But you do have a point on the airline industry. The Feds waste endless sums of money bailing out companies that fail to innovate and offer infamously poor service, and then the feds turn around and regulate them into the ground to prevent terrorism. Flying, which was once a decadent luxury, is now a painful ordeal. The airline CEO's are riding a gold mine of federal bailout money while the taxpayers get screwed.

      What can we do to restore the airlines? I'll tell you what. We need to turn them into desireable luxuries affordable to the masses.

      Today, when you enter an airport, you're destined to spend hours sitting around being bored while waiting for your plane. You'll go through a pain-in-the-ass security procedure that doesn't secure much at all. And then you'll be packed into cramped seats like sardines.

      How can we solve all of these problems without spending vast sums of money, even though the people running the airlines are corrupt, money grubbing fiends?

      Easy-turn all those weaknesses into strengths! Through the power of sex. Take all the money you would spend on bailing out the airlines, and use it on a massive campaign to fight sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. When people show up at the airport, the security check will consist of attractive members of the opposite sex strip-searching them to ensure health, hygiene, and the use of contraceptives. The hours of waiting for delayed flights will *fly* by as they turn into massive orgies. Being packed like sardines on the plane will be a good thing now. (we just have to make sure seating arrangements keep people in compatible groups, perhaps ordered by age, with plenty of cute stewardesses and stewards to guarantee everyone has a good time?)

      This approach has endless benefits: Everyone will want to fly, turning the airline business into a highly competitive, profit-filled arena. Everyone will have a great time, making life better for the common citizen. Illegal prostitution will become a thing of the past, and the safety checks will result in huge reductions in national healthcare expenses as problems are prevented before they spread. And how does this relate to scramjets? Ooh, imagine the possibilites of doing all that in orbit, with zero gravity! I, for one, welcome our weightless airline sex overlords. And underlords. Depending on whether you're a top or bottom.

      I'm sick of NASA justifying themselves as an organization for exploration and science- when they're instead spending most of their time (and my money) on weapons platform research and lining defense contractor pockets.

      NASA is actually one of the less defense-oriented research organizations. Believe it or not, the department of defense is the single most influential source of funding for pure science in this country. Nobody else wants to pay the bills. We'd see fewer weapons platforms if the government spent MORE on pure science that won't be applied for another decade. But as long as scientists can only get funded by playing the DoD's game, we're going to see giant robots wielding laser cannons before a cure for cancer. Simply kill the giant robot programs without increasing spending on pure research, and you'll see unemployed scientists movi
      • by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @04:10PM (#10034176) Homepage Journal
        Most people don't like missiles, but access-to-space vehicles that operate at incredible altitudes are very useful. We have a lot of very useful satellites up there, and these "space planes" could make those satellites a lot cheaper. But you do have a point on the airline industry. The Feds waste endless sums of money bailing out companies that fail to innovate and offer infamously poor service, and then the feds turn around and regulate them into the ground to prevent terrorism. Flying, which was once a decadent luxury, is now a painful ordeal. The airline CEO's are riding a gold mine of federal bailout money while the taxpayers get screwed.


        Sounds like you should cast your vote for Bush. He has repeatedly refused to bailout the airline and rail industries. The Republicans aren't into that corporate corruption and corporate welfare thing. Why do you think Enron, Anderson, and others are getting prosecuted now and not during the Clinton years, when they were at their heyday?

        The Democrats talk a lot about how the Republicans are the party of the rich and how they are 100% behind the corporations. I have news for you. The richest senators are Democrats, not Republicans. Heck, John Kerry and co is worth more than ten times what Bush and co is worth! And the Republicans are all for letting wasteful, poorly managed companies take a dive to leave room for new, young, vibrant companies. The Democrats will do anything to keep their buddies' companies alive.

        Where do the Republican's principle donations and loyalties lie? With homeowners and small business people. Why do you think that they are pursuing cutting the income tax for the highest wage earners? Because the highest wage
        • earners
        are those who are
        • becoming
        rich, not who are already rich. These are the small business people who finally get their break and are expanding their business to meet the demand. And the Republicans are pursuing to cut the death tax because it hurts the small business owners who don't have a team of fifty lawyers and accountants on hand to setup trust funds to make sure their cash gets into their childrens hands.

        Democrats talk up a storm - but what have they done for the little guy? Look at their real record, and you'll see they're all about keeping the money in the hands of the rich, preventing others from getting rich, and keeping the poor man on the dole. This runs right along with their historic racist and tyrannical attitudes, which still persist with current members of the Senate. (The only member of the senate that is also a part of the KKK is Senator Robert Byrd, a democrat.)

        Remember, the first and only man to strike another on the floor of the Senate was a democrat. And it was over slavery and the fact that the democrat didn't want to give it up, even though the overwhelming public opinion both north and south of the Mason-Dixie line was against the democrats. The democrats started the civil war by firing on federal soldiers. The democrats enforced segregation. It wasn't until the Republicans were able to regain some power in the senate and house that segregation was ended.

        So if you are against corporate welfare and you think that corrupt corporate leaders should get jailtime, vote Bush and Republican.

        Mark this flamebait. I know you guys hate hearing the truth. It drives the democrats nuts because they can't refute it, so instead they try to shut us up and prevent us from exercising our right to free speech.
        • I know .. IHBT .. and your only goal is to troll people, but I do feel you should at least lie about things that are not so obviously wrong. I do "hate hearing the truth" when it comes from liars and trolls. (I'm also glad you *are* on Bush's side)

          Enron [bbc.co.uk] timelines [washingtonpost.com]
          Enron wasn't that big before Bush's term and didn't start breaking the law until they got help from their Texas buddies. Look at their stock prices and decline. Enron restated financials and went under after 2001.

          Enron and Kenneth Lay eac

    • We haven't managed to do anything for millions of Americans with no health insurance , our kids are dumb as bricks because their schools are cutting programs and staff, and our police/fire/ems departments are laying off staff left and right from budget cuts...but hey, we've got a plane that can do mach 15 at 100,000 feet! Sweet!

      Okay, I'll bite:

      1. I am not a big fan of NASA right now either, especially after seeing what an expensive boondoggle the Shuttle and ISS have become, but considering their budget,
    • My favorite sentance is: "NASA began developing scramjet engines in the late 1950s"

      It's been 50 years with virtually no usefull results, but somehow they're sure that this will be in production within the next 6 years.

      The only thing NASA has had any luck with recently is unmanned probes. Thier manned projects seem to all be of the "inspire schoolchildren" variety. The space station costs 10+ billion dollars and is being staffed by a basic maintenence crew that has no time for any scientific work (when's
      • The only thing NASA has had any luck with recently is unmanned probes. Thier manned projects seem to all be of the "inspire schoolchildren" variety.

        And only schoolchildren (and those of the same intellectual maturity) are inspired anymore. Hell, even van Allen is arguing against manned space exploration these days!

        We should devote our efforts to the oceans. Three quarters of the globe we've not even begun to exploit properly. Sure, it'll be tough. Sure, we'll need to exterminate the large and danger

  • engine design (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lehk228 (705449) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:20AM (#10030959) Journal
    After reading the article and looking at the diagram i wonder how the vulnerability of scramjet engine compares with a turbojet or turbofan when it comes to impacting birds and or bats, though at this time i am sure these engines are only being used at very high altitudes and in controlled conditions but if they make it into production fighter aircraft they will be used at lower altitudes. the lack of anything blocking off the path of the air in the diagrams makes it look almost as if an object would pass completely through the engine without damaging it, though i'm sure the object would be burnt to a crisp.
    • Re:engine design (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:29AM (#10030980) Homepage Journal
      It sounds like the engine depends on careful management of shock wave locations and heat profiles. Running a foreign object through could not be good.

      On the other hand these are for speeds above Mach 3, at which you'd better be in very thin air or you'll start melting your vehicle. There aren't many birds at SR-71 cruising altitudes.
    • The simple answer is that scramjet engines are MUCH less susceptible to debris/bird impacts simply because they have essentially no moving parts. It's essentially a well modeled tube. The critter would fly straight through without physically impacting anything except the walls. Oh, and due to the extreme temperatures it'll probably be incinerated.
    • Chances are you will create an unstart if the engine is running due to the changes in the shock waves as the foreign body progresses through.

      Of course an unstart does not damage the engine but it can radically alter the course of the aircraft. An unstart on an SR-71 at full speed led the aircraft to turn in the direction of the engine at roughly a mile every 4 seconds. They generally did not last long though.
  • "These goals drew closer to achievement this spring when the first scramjet-powered aircraft flew on its own."
    "...craft mounted on a Pegasus booster rocket,"

    So I guess the idea is to get it up to speed, but I don't think it left the booster rocket did it?

    So did it really fly on its own?

    Here's another good link with some cool pics.
    (Too bad you can't read the words on them.)

    http://www.nasa.gov/missions/research/x43_soars_ fe ature.html
  • by d3ity (800597)
    Why do we need to go mach 15 anyway?
  • Affordable? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bStrom (806850) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @02:52AM (#10031028)
    The article says that the scramjet will be "affordable", but what does that really mean? Affordable compared to current commercial technology? Affordable compared to current scramjet technology?

    The affordability, more than anything else, will determine whether this technology is adopted. This engine might get you to your destination faster, but if it costs 10x as much the majority of fliers (and airlines) won't pay.

    • they're talking about fuel costs, basically. scramjet engines run in oxygen pulled from the very air they're flying through.
  • Great... (Score:2, Insightful)

    All we need is more ways to shoot missiles. Hey maybe we could sell them to two combating countries so they can take each other out and then we can go invade them for having weapons of mass destruction.
    • Only if they have oil there.
    • Hate to break it to you, but you're the biggest combating country out there.

      We should have invaded you while you were out invading the Middle East ;)
      • Hate to break it to you, but you're the biggest combating country out there.

        We should have invaded you while you were out invading the Middle East ;)


        And what woudl we get for our trouble? 250 million malcontents who all lean right(some righter then others). A large country of mostly underinformed, mostly apathetic, mostly under educated, service industry workers. Do your really want rush limbaugh? Or Howard Stern? Common theres nothing there worth taking over. Now sweden, and those swedish girls.... ther
  • cheaper (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    scram jets could be cheaper because they use surrounding atmosphere to mold a 'virtual nozzle' to direct exhaust. This means less weight, less fuel...

    Also, the technology can hypothetically be turned into a radial design. There are descriptions on the net, I'm just to lazy to hunt one down.
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug.geekazon@com> on Saturday August 21, 2004 @03:15AM (#10031084) Homepage
    Did I read this right? ...scramjet engine fired for a planned 10-s test, achieving an incredible Mach 7, or 5,000 mph.

    It reached 5000 mph in TEN SECONDS? Holy crap, dude!
    If this is right I am truly impressed. Could a human passenger survive that acceleration?
    • by Lord Kano (13027) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @03:27AM (#10031115) Homepage Journal
      Not exactly, it was carried atop a regular airplay at several hundred miles per hour, then the rocket booster kicked it up to the cruising altitude and THEN the scramjet engine was engaged for the 10 second burn.

      It's damned impressive but it's not like it accellerated to 5000 mph from a standstill.

      LK
    • That is about 23 Gs. MAYBE a human could survive it, for a mere 10 seconds, with proper cushioning. No way in hell a human could be piloting it at that acceleration.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        23Gs? That would really, really suck. A 150lb dude (average /.er, soaking wet) would be slammed into his seat with like three and a half TONS of force. Anyone want to go take the tires off their car and then lay under it for 10 seconds? Let us know how you feel afterwards, ok? Thanks!

        And even if you were in the center of a 6 foot ball of bubble wrap, I doubt your organs would survive the punishment. A three pound (2% of 150) brain? 70lbs in your skull. Would your heart even beat when it felt like 17lbs?
    • Perhaps a new class for NHRA :)
    • In addition to Lord Kano's informative response, it should be noted that a scramjet can't operate at a 0 mph (or indeed anything less than supersonic speeds) anyway, by its design. See this post [slashdot.org] for an explanation. So it was necessarily an acceleration from some supersonic velocity to 5000mph, not from 0 to 5000mph.
  • What is a scramjet? (Score:4, Informative)

    by p0 (740290) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @03:46AM (#10031142)
    From the article:
    The supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, uses no rotating parts. In a conventional ramjet, the incoming supersonic airflow is slowed to subsonic speeds by multiple shock waves, created by back-pressuring the engine. Fuel is added to the subsonic airflow, the mixture combusts, and exhaust gases accelerate through a narrow throat, or mechanical choke, to supersonic speeds. By contrast, the airflow in a pure scramjet remains supersonic throughout the combustion process and does not require a choking mechanism, which provides optimal performance over a wider operating range of Mach numbers. Modern scramjet engines can function as both a ramjet and scramjet and seamlessly make the transition between the two.
    Get the pdf version here [tipmagazine.com]
  • Old News? (Score:3, Informative)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @03:57AM (#10031167) Journal
    I remember hearing about them doing this (or at least something very very similar) on the radio a couple of months ago. And that was Australian radio, I always thought Australia was the last place news reached.

    Did they re-do the experiment/is it something new? Or is slashdot the last place news reaches?
  • Since these engines have no moving parts, does that mean that they would provide a quieter ride for passengers aboard ramjet airplanes? Also, does it even really matter -- is it even a possibility that these would become general use passenger planes? I mean, we have supersonic planes today, but hardly anyone has ever flown in one.
    • well, a scramjet will take you from an initial Mach 2-3 to the expected mach 7-10+ this technolgy is meant to achieve...

      So you will still enjoy all the noise of the starting point up to mach 1, then have a nice, quiet acceleration to mach 2-3, and then suddenly leave all sound you produce about 500-600 feet behind you, instead of just the 70 feet sound buble displacement you enjoy at mach 3.

      the whole point is that to you it will be quite silencious...but it really have to be made in high altitude...

      If yo
  • cool... (Score:2, Informative)

    by zxflash (773348)
    interesting read, if anybody is looking for more info nasa has a good writeup on scramjets...

    NASA - What's a Scramjet? [nasa.gov]
  • I think these are very cool, but I really have to wonder about the practical applications of these. I'm not saying that research into them should be stopped, I think this is definitely an area were further research is warranted, rather I'm just curious about where this technology might be going. The most practical use I can think of off the top of my head is missles because the faster missles move, the harder it is to intercept them. Beyond that though, I'm mostly drawing a blank in regards to truly useful
    • If you have ever spent 14 hours on a plane flying between the US and Asia, I think you will realize a good use for them, assuming the cost can be made reasonable. I considered the flight to be rather excruciating, and one I am not ready to repeat anytime soon.

      Assuming that space elevators never work, this might also be the only method available for making space accessible to someone at a cost of under $10M

      • Well, that's what I'm saying, there are supersonic planes now that could shorten a flight between the U.S. and Asia to maybe a few hours, but yet we do not use this technology because of the cost. Would these new engines be any different? Wouldn't they be similarly or more expensive than current supersonic planes and thus similarly underutilized?
  • Security concerns (Score:3, Insightful)

    by britneys 9th husband (741556) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @04:08AM (#10031183) Homepage Journal
    As cool as it would be to fly from New York to Tokyo in 90 minutes, I wonder if anyone has thought about the security concerns related to passenger jets that can travel 10,000 mph. Often during events like the Super Bowl or political oonventions, they'll put up a no-fly zone around a 5 or 10 mile radius so the military has time to shoot down any threatening aircraft. Problem is, at 10k mph, you can cover 1,000 miles in just 6 minutes. Does this mean all air travel in the entire Northeast would need to be shut down during the Republican convention in NYC? What kind of a no-fly zone would be needed around Washington, DC?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for advancing technology, I just wonder how we would be able to handle a world where a terrorist flying a stolen or hijacked aircraft over Chicago could be less than 5 minutes from the White House.
    • You have to consider how hard it would be for a terrorist to take over a plane if it only takes a couple of minutes to fly from one destination to another. By the time you get up to attack the pilot, you've already landed!
    • Good question. Now just keep repeating it to yourself, while you silently mouth the phrase "range safety officer." When you feel the chill run down your spine, you'll know you got the right answer.

      Our kids are going to live in an interesting world.

    • Just build a network of penumatic tubes across the country. Run the jets inside the tubes.
  • by Lisandro (799651) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @07:16AM (#10031528)
    I just gave the article a read; very neat stuff. No moving parts for (basically) a very fast jet engine is nice. Also, it's possible to use hydrogen as fuel. Neat.

    What i wonder is how feasible will it be to use in a passanger plane. The engine needs to have air fed in at Mach 3, and the article suggests using rockets. Those would need to be insanely big; and if you use a separate, "conventional" engine to reach that airspeed the aircraft becomes too complex.
  • by Barryke (772876) on Saturday August 21, 2004 @07:30AM (#10031569) Homepage
    From article [tipmagazine.com], the last paragraph:
    Demonstrating these technologies, along with additional ground- and flight-test experiments, will pave the way for affordable and reusable air-breathing hypersonic engines for missiles, long-range aircraft, and space-access vehicles around 2010, 2015, and 2025, respectively.

    Uhh? "demonstrating..reusable..engines for missiles" ?

    Are we talking 'homing nuke' ?
  • "Scramjets will enable three categories of hypersonic craft: weapons, such as cruise missiles; aircraft, such as those designed for global strike and" [... possibly other unimportant bullshit applications... ] So isn't it just great that soon people will be able to kill other people with hypersonic Mach12 speed?!
  • Just you wait.. They'll pass by quicker than most.

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