- Press Release
- Nov 27, 2022
Scramjet test on the launchpad, ready for take-off
A University of Queensland team is gearing up for Tuesday’s
historic attempt to flight test the supersonic combustion process
used in a scramjet for the first time in the world.
The University’s Centre for Hypersonics is leading the
international 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, on July 30
at approximately 11am to 1pm local time, 11.30am-1.30pm AEST.
Scramjets are air-breathing supersonic combustion ramjet engines.
While scramjets do raise the possibility of Sydney to London
flights in two hours, they are set to revolutionise the launch
of small space payloads, such as communications satellites, by
substantially lowering costs. They have the added benefit that
they do not even have to carry most of their propellant as they
use oxygen from the atmosphere.
The aim of the HyShot program is to provide the world’s first
in-flight tests of scramjet technology, validating experiments
held in ground test facilities.
The program involves taking the scramjet engine to a design
speed of Mach 7.6 by a Terrier Orion rocket. The rocket and
payload will reach an altitude of 314km before the rocket is
configured to fly in a new trajectory pointing the payload back
down to earth. The flight experiment will take place within
only the last few seconds of the flight, lasting almost 10
minutes. The rocket is intended to impact 371km downrange of
the launch site.
The rockets and scramjet have been staged and are now on the
launchpad ready for the July 29 rehearsal. The rocket has been
named "Hans" in honour of HyShot chief engineer Dr Hans Alesi,
currently working as a senior stress engineer for Boeing in
Seattle on the Wedgetail early warning radar system for the
Australian airforce. Last year’s first rocket was named
"Hilary" in honour of HyShot program team leader Dr Allan
Dr Paull said all preparations were on track and the team was
looking forward to a successful launch.
With Woomera’s overnight temperatures at 2 to 4 degrees
Centigrade, the rockets are being covered with carpet underlay
at night to keep them warm above 7 degrees Centigrade in
preparation for the launch.
The payload has been fitted with a secret weapon to help its
location after the launch — a tiny tracking device routinely
used to track an Australian marsupial, the echidna, a type of
spiny ant-eater. The device was supplied by zoologists led by
UQ echidna, kangaroo crocodile, frog and camel researcher
Professor Gordon Grigg. The Grigg team found the first rocket
and payload from last year’s unsuccessful test attempt in
February this year north of Woomera. During August Professor
Grigg will conduct the 25th annual kangaroo survey of the South
Australian pastoral zone — the world’s longest running aerial
The launch is being commanded by ARDU (Aircraft Research and
Development Unit, Australian Defence) at Woomera. ARDU is
providing the expertise to run the complex program as well as
the personnel to operate equipment vital to the campaign’s
success. In addition, DCSW (Defence Corporate Support, Woomera)
who control the Woomera range, have also provided opportunities
to liaise with Aboriginal and pastoral interests and have
provided much needed support with information for using the
The HyShot project uses the expertise and financial support of
consortium partners such as Astrotech Space Operations, DTI and
GASL, QinetiQ, NASA Langley Research Center, The DSTO (Defence
Science and Technology, Organisation), Seoul National University,
the DLR (German Aerospace Center), NAL (National Aerospace
Lab., Japan), AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory, USA),
and Australian Space Research Institute (ASRI), Insitute of
Engineers Australia (IEAust), UniQuest, Australian Department
of Defence. Australian firms, Alesi Technologies, NQEA, AECA,
Luxfer Australia and Jet Air Cargo, and BAE Systems Australia
are also involved.
Funding has also been secured from the Department of Industry,
Science and Resources, the Australian Research Council and
assistance and support from QinetiQ Ltd. in the UK.
Media access to the launch will be 3.5km away at Wild Dog Creek
due to safety considerations but RAAF 92 Wing personnel will
provide pool vision and stills shortly after the launch. Large
file digital stills will also be taken by UQ photographer Chris
Stacey and will be posted to the HyShot image gallery (address
below) shortly after the launch. Within an hour of the launch,
key media contacts from UQ and ARDU will be available for
interview at the Woomera Instrumented Building.
* Hyshot pix
* HyShot stories