A joint venture between US Department of Defense and Australian Defence Science and Technology Organization launched a rocket to a mind-boggling Mach 7.5. That’s a speed seven and half times faster than the speed of sound or 5,710 mph (9,200 kmph).
The experimental craft which reached an altitude of 173 miles is part of the Hypersonic International Flight Research and Experimentation project, which aims to understand the fundamentals of hypersonic flight.
The launch of the rocket HiFiRE 5B is only one of ten scheduled launches intended to cross the Mach 5 barrier.
“The knowledge gained from these experiments will be applied to develop future flight vehicles and testing of advanced air-breathing hypersonic propulsion engines, known as scramjets,” said Professor Michael Smart of University of Queensland.
HiFiRE 5B was first fired on a sounding rocket, then used something called a scramjet or Supersonic Combustion Ramjet to reach Mach 7.5. Instead of using oxygen fuel from a tank which is bulky and takes a lot of mass, the scramjet compresses air taken from the atmosphere. Researchers predict scramjet speeds could reach 15 times the speed of sound.
“The success of this test launch takes us one step closer to the realisation of hypersonic flight,” Australian Chief Defence Scientist Dr Alex Zelinsky
“It is a game-changing technology identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper and could revolutionise global air travel, providing cost-effective access to space.”
At this tremendous speeds, a trip from Sydney to London which now takes around 20 hours could be done in only two.