Rebirth of the Hypersoar Program

  1. LURCH

    LURCH 2,514
    Science Advisor

    Some of you may remember the X-43 "Hypersoar" testbed that NASA was forced to destroy a couple of years ago. A second X-43 has been built and has undergone its first "captive carry" flight. I am very excited about this tech; the possible applications are really cool!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. STS Replacement?

    Hmm, it seems to me that it could be a worthy shuttle replacement, provided they can settle those navigation systems. Perhaps with them they could actually finish the International Space Station, though I doubt that the X-43A's cargo compartment is spacious. Still, at least an American aerospace program would be back in motion. Who knows, if this proves to be cheap, perhaps there will be those centrifugal stations, and those lunar/martian bases, and those grand space-galleons and star-sloops searching for knowledge.

    Bah, I become more romantic every second. Just my two pennies.
     
  4. LURCH

    LURCH 2,514
    Science Advisor

    Re: STS Replacement?

    Certainly not in the current model, which is only about 5 ft long and maybe 3 ft wide(I hate compacts)! But one of the proposals I read for the scaled-up version would be the size of the shuttle, or a 747. One of the proposed uses for this tech is comercial passenger transportation. If the passenger section in the larger version were replaced with a cargo hold, the launching of sattelites would become another function. Or if the hold were filled with additional fuel, and some oxidizing agent for exoatmospheric thrust, it would make an orbiter that is much cheaper to operate than the shuttle.

    I will be keeping an eye on this program and updating this thread as developements occur.
     
  5. drag

    drag 1,341
    Science Advisor

    Re: Re: STS Replacement?

    Greetings !

    I believe we should hold our horses for now and see weather
    this thing actually flies, first. As far as I'm aware
    scramjets don\t even work in the lab yet. It'll be great,
    of course, if this works out.

    Live long and prosper.
     
  6. enigma

    enigma 1,815
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Re: Re: STS Replacement?

    A scramjet project out of the University of Queensland has attained supersonic combustion during a trial flight, but they haven't attained positive thrust yet.

    NASA can't even get the thing to launch without blowing up.

    ********************
    "Yeah, we'll launch off of a pegasus rocket, with half the solid fuel scraped out, from an altitude much lower than it was designed for. It'll be fine!"

    *BOOM*

    "Hrmm. The fins sheared off. Wonder how that happened?"

    Bah.
     
  7. drag

    drag 1,341
    Science Advisor

    Re: Re: Re: Re: STS Replacement?

    Hmm... Yeah, I heard of it about a year ago or so.
    But, if I'm not mistaken, what they were testing is the
    effect of hydrogen ejected from the nose of that thing,
    they launched and then let fall, on drag reduction at
    supersonic velocities. They weren't testing a propulsion system.

    Live long and prosper.
     
  8. LURCH

    LURCH 2,514
    Science Advisor

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: STS Replacement?

    The gass being ejected from the nose was nitrogen, and it was indeed for the purpose of reducing drag, but only indirectly. The compressed nitrogen served as a maneuvering thruster to orient the rocket in a nose-down position, reducing drag on re-entry. But the purpose of the mission was in fact to test a hydrogen-fueled scramjets propulsion system.

    The entire experiment is described atUQ's website.
     
  9. LURCH

    LURCH 2,514
    Science Advisor

    Re: Re: Re: STS Replacement?

    First test flight could be as early as February 21st (2 1/2 weeks from now).
     
  10. drag

    drag 1,341
    Science Advisor

    Oops... Sorry for that, I just remember I only found
    all the publicity pages back then, and they weren't
    very good at explaining the experiment, I guess.
     
  11. LURCH

    LURCH 2,514
    Science Advisor

    Dang! According to today's Space.Com , the Pegasus booster for this mission has been damaged. The launch is delayed at least a month . Perhaps NASA should focus the testing a little less on wether or not the X-43A can fly, and concentrate on testing to verify wether or not the Pegasus Booster can fly!

    At least the malfunctioning booster is only delaying the launch this time, rather than destroying the test vehicle. So far, that is.
     
  12. From what I understand the X-43 is not ment to be a shuttle replacement but rather to test their new scramjet propulsion system (I am just doing a project on this and I would appreciate it if you told me if this is correct or not).

    Also from what I understand the scramjet doesn't opperate below supersonic speeds because it required the speed to compress the air, so that it can do away with the moving parts of a regular jet engine, rather like the ramjet but wothout slowing the air down first.

    Also could someone please tell me why so much money is being spent on it, we already have the ramjet which is not used very much, except in a few rockets, and the scramjet has the same basic problems i.e. accelerating the plane up to supersonic speeds, so what will be its use?
     
  13. LURCH

    LURCH 2,514
    Science Advisor

    Yes, this is correct. The X-43A is just a testbed for the scramjet principle. But one of the reasons we are interested in proving that scramjets can work is because they would make an excellent launch vehicle. As you may already know, the big problem of getting into orbit is not the power required to get up to the right altitude, but to achieve sufficient speed. A hypersoar vehicle could carry payloads to an altitude where atmospheric resistence is no longer a factor, and accelerate to near-orbital volocities, all under the thrust of an air-breathing engine. From there, a small booster rocket released form the cargo bay could put payloads into orbit at a fraction of current cost. Or, a version of the vehicle that has some oxydiser carried on board could continue to run the engines outside the atmosohere and propell the entire vehicle into orbit. This version would be the "shuttle replacement", and would be much cheaper than any current method of launching people into space.


    Right. Just as the ramjet doesn't work below supersonic speeds, the scramjet won't work below hypersonic speeds. AFAIK, all current vehicles with ramjets use hybrid engines that function like regular jet engines to get up to supesonic speeds, then switch to ramjet operation. The scramjet would do the same type of transition, I should think.
    It's applications to the space program I've already mentioned, but it would have advantages as a passenger liner as well. New York to LA in 45 minutes, for example. London to Tokyo in 90. Not many comforts; the ride will be mostly, "Sit down, strap in, shut up and hang on!" and "No, there won't be a movie; no, we won't serve you drinks; do not unfasten your safety belt, you should have gone before we took off".

    Some of the engineers trying to market the idea have even proposed that it will be cheaper to operate in the long term, since the engines have no moving parts for most of their operational time. And there might even be fuel savings, since the hypersaor concept involves leaving the atmosphere at speeds only slightly less than those required to stay in orbit. The vehicle will then coast untill it comes back into the upper atmosphere, where the engine can be lit to climb out again. The reduced drag of travelling through a vacuum means better fuel economy. The vehicle's engines will actually be off for most of each flight (up to 2/3, according to some).

    For delivery companies like Fed Ex and UPS, speed = money. With this vehicle, they could offer a special service in which a currier could pick up a package from an office in Hong Kong at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, and it would arrive on Bill Gates' desk before 5:00 PM Tuesday! You know, for those bosses who keep telling you "this has to get there YESTERDAY!", it actually would.
     
  14. LURCH

    LURCH 2,514
    Science Advisor

    Next flight tentatively for a week from toady; Saurday, March 27th preceeeded by a news conference on the 24th.
     
  15. NASA is doing a test today (3-37-04) of the X-43 attached to a B-52. If you have access to NASA TV, check it out right now. I'm watching right now on NASA TV.
     
  16. LURCH

    LURCH 2,514
    Science Advisor

    Just saw it! Appears to have gone off without a hitch. Launched at 39 thousand ft. at 14:00 local time, accelerated through Mach 5 while still in direct view. They just lost contact over the horizon (at about 14:03). Engine ignition and controlled burn was confirmed, data is still coming in.

    RV data just started coming back in and the vehical was going mach 1.4 on its decent through 4,000 ft. Now subsonic at 3,000... now it's hit the water. Succesfull test!:biggrin:
     
  17. enigma

    enigma 1,815
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Hey that's good news!

    To be honest, I didn't think they'd be able to pull it off (in case you couldn't tell that from my above post).
     
  18. They said in the post-flight press conference that it achieved positive thrust. Pretty good accomplishment considering this was an engine contained within a vehicle that flew on its own.
     
  19. LURCH

    LURCH 2,514
    Science Advisor

    Additional;
    In the post-flight briefing it was stated that Mach 7 was achieved under SCramjet power, positive acceleration while climbing, good telemetry and controll all the way to splashdown. Tons of data pouring in, will take months to crunch it all.

    EDIT TO ADD:
    They also announced that they found definite evidence of water!
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2004
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