Air-Breathing Hypersonic Engine Takes Flight

A decade ago, Aerojet Rocketdyne and the Air Force Research Laboratory powered the first hydrocarbon-fueled and cooled air-breathing hypersonic flight test. Now, Huntsville-based Aerojet Rocketdyne has done it again — achieving record levels of thrust by a scramjet engine.

The AFRL-Aerojet Rocketdyne team recently finished successful testing of an advanced air-breathing hypersonic engine.

“Our scramjet engine powered the United States Air Force X-51A Waverider when it made history in 2010 by completing the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever, and we continue to propel that technology,” said Eileen Drake, CEO and president of Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Our Generation-3 scramjet delivers increased performance and affordability because of our significant investments in our skilled workforce, advanced technologies and innovative manufacturing processes.”

In tests, the 18-foot scramjet engine produced more than 13,000 lbs. of thrust. The tests demonstrated the engine could accelerate a vehicle about 10 times the size of the X-51 at hypersonic speeds, the company said.

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“Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully demonstrated the scalability of their air-breathing scramjet engine, proving its applicability to platforms ranging from missiles to high-speed aircraft,” said Paul Kennedy, AFRL program manager. “Years of preparation paid off as the completion of the … test program sets the foundation for design of hypersonic propulsion systems across a broad range of vehicle scale and Mach operability.”

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