The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) performed a major technological feat when it flew a cruise vehicle at a hypersonic speed of Mach six for 20 seconds.
- The DRDO called the cruise vehicle Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV).
- The centrepiece of the HSTDV was the indigenously developed air-breathing scramjet engine, which formed the HSTDV’s propulsion system. If the mission’s aim was to prove this scramjet engine in flight, it was achieved.
About the scramjet engine
- The critical technologies developed for the HSTDV mission were the scramjet engine and its ignition, sustaining the ignition, ethylene fuel, generation of maximum energy from the engine, development of materials to take care of the high temperatures that occurred due to air friction on the leading edges of the cruiser’s wings, tail surface and nose tip, and controlling the HSTDV with minimum drag and maximum thrust.
- In a scramjet engine, air from the atmosphere is rammed into the engine’s combustion chamber at a supersonic speed of more than Mach two.
- In the chamber, the air mixes with the fuel to ignite a supersonic combustion but the cruiser’s flight will be at a hypersonic speed of Mach six to seven. So it is called supersonic combustion ramjet or Scramjet.
- Mastering the air-breathing scramjet technology will lead to the development of hypersonic missiles, faster civilian air transportation and facilities for putting satellites into orbit at a low cost.