ISRO successfully test-fires scramjet engine

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ISRO's Advanced Technology Vehicle carrying scramjet engines lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on Sunday. Photo: ISRO

The Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV), a sounding rocket (research rocket) with a solid booster carrying advanced scramjet engines, was successfully flight-tested from the launch pad of the Sathish Dhawan Space Centre, also known as Sriharikota Range (SHAR), at Sriharikota on Sunday.

This first experimental mission of Indian Space Research Organisation is aimed at the realisation of an Air Breathing Propulsion System which uses hydrogen as fuel and oxygen from the atmosphere air as the oxidiser.

The mission had a smooth countdown of 12 hours as the ATV with scramjet engines weighing 3277 kg lifted off at 6 a.m. ISRO chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar and SHAR director P. Kunhikrishnan along with a host of space scientists were present at Sriharikota on the occasion.

The ATV vehicle, which touched down in the Bay of Bengal approximately 320 km from Sriharikota after a flight of 300 seconds, was successfully tracked during its flight from the ground stations at Sriharikota. With this, the ISRO had successfully demonstrated its capabilities in critical technologies like ignition of air breathing engines at supersonic speed, air intake mechanism and fuel injection systems.

Technological challenges handled by ISRO scientists during the development of the scramjet engine include the design and development of hypersonic engine air intake, the supersonic combustor, proper thermal management and ground testing of the engines.

With this, India became the fourth country to demonstrate the flight testing of a scramjet engines. This mission is a milestone for ISRO’s future space transportation system.

The scientists said that all the important flight events such as the burn out of booster rocket stage and functioning of scramjet engines for 5 seconds followed by burn out of the second stage took place exactly as planned.

 (ISRO's ATV rocket lifts off with two scramjet engines from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on Sunday. Photo: ISRO)
(ISRO’s ATV rocket lifts off with two scramjet engines from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on Sunday. Photo: ISRO)

10 things to know about ISRO’s scramjet engine launch

  1. India successfully tests its own scramjet engine in flight on board an Advanced Technology Vehicle rocket.
  2. Two scramjet engines were tested during the flight from Sriharikota.
  3. India is the fourth country to demonstrate the flight testing of scramjet engine.
  4. Scramjet engines in flight is an important milestone in ISRO’s endeavour towards its future space transportation system.
  5. The scramjet engine is used only during the atmospheric phase of the rocket’s flight.
  6. Scramjet engines will help bringing down launch cost by reducing the amount of oxidiser to be carried along with the fuel.
  7. Scramjet engines designed by ISRO uses hydrogen as fuel and the oxygen from the atmospheric air as the oxidiser.
  8. The test-flight is maiden short duration experimental test of ISRO’s scramjet engine with a hypersonic flight at Mach 6 (six times the speed of sound).
  9. Two scramjet engines were “hugging” the rocket on its sides and when the rocket reaches a height of 11 km the scramjet engines would start breathing air.
  10. The ATV rocket weighed 3,277 kg during lift-off.

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