The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully tested its own scramjet engine Sunday, making India the fourth country in the world to have achieved the feat.
The scramjet engine, with its air-breathing propulsion system, uses hydrogen as fuel and oxygen from the atmospheric air as the oxidizer, unlike regular engines that need to carry both fuel and oxidizer. While the rocket is in supersonic speed, the technology compresses the atmospheric oxygen, which then acts as an oxidizer to burn the fuel being carried.
As a part of the country’s first experimental mission in the field, two scramjet engines took off from the launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh early Sunday. The Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV) carrying the engines touched down in the Bay of Bengal — 320 kilometers (199 miles) from Sriharikota — after a flight of 300 seconds, Indian newspaper the Hindu reported.
ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar told news agency ANI: “Today’s experiment of doing a scramjet engine test is a very significant development. We are the fourth country to do such a thing, the test (scramjet engine) was very successful.”
“Two scramjet engines were tested during the flight. The scramjet engines were ignited 55 seconds into the rocket's flight. The engines were tested for six seconds,” a senior ISRO official told Indian news agency IANS.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to congratulate the space agency.
After the successful test Sunday, the scramjet engine will reportedly be tested on a full-scale reusable launch vehicle (RLV).
In 2004, NASA demonstrated the capability to use the scramjet technology, followed by an ISRO ground test of the engine in 2006. A number of other countries like Japan, China and Russia are attempting to develop or test the supersonic combustor technology.