Scientists have built and tested an advanced type of jet called a scramjet ("supersonic combustion ramjet"), which in a recent test trial proved to travel at speeds of up to Mach 10--or 10 times the speed of sound of 760 mph. Anything over Mach 5 is considered to be "hypersonic" as opposed to merely supersonic, which means faster than sound.
The work was a collaboration of scientists from Australia (from the Defense Science and Technology Organization) and America (from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). The test provided the first ever flight data on the scramjet engine design.
Credit: DSTOScramjets differ from conventional rockets by their unique combustion technology. Instead of carrying oxygen inside to burn fuel, the jet can extract oxygen from the atmosphere, which greatly reduces the weight of the jet, enabling it to go faster. The oxygen is then burned as fuel onboard.
Because of this technology, scramjets basically look like long, thin tubes in which air is compressed at high speeds. Scramjets have very few moving parts, like turbines or jet engines, which not only reduces the weight, but also minimizes the risk of part failure.
The scientists are excited about a variety of applications that such a design could lead to. For example, if the technology could be applied to commercial airplanes, people could travel across the US--or from New York to England--in about 30 minutes.
In addition, scramjets could greatly reduce the cost of sending satellites into space. Further, the military could utilize the technology for highly time-critical missions. (via: Gizmag)