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India enters supersonic race

ISRO has developed a technology that propels rockets to fly three times faster than Concorde, reports BR Srikanth.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2006 02:10 IST

In the first step towards faster and inexpensive travel in space, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has demonstrated the technology that propels rockets to fly at 4,560 mph — three times faster than the Concorde.

The Supersonic Combustion Ramjet (Scramjet) technology was tested at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram for seven seconds. This technology helps rocket engines scoop in air (oxygen) to burn the fuel during the flight. In conventional systems, the rockets have to carry both the fuel and oxygen. The advantage: the rocket will be now lighter and therefore carry heavier satellites at one-tenth the current costs (down to $1,000 a kg of payload).

An ISRO press release said the development of a complete rocket system driven by this technology would take a couple of years. “In the coming years, ISRO is planning to flight-test an integrated Scramjet propulsion system. The development of such a hi-tech system will go a long way in meeting the futuristic space transportation needs of our country,” the release said.

So far, only two groups have reported success with such high-speed vehicles. Nasa’s X-43 unmanned aircraft hit a record 6,600 mph in November 2004 during its 10-second flight. In July 2002, Australia reported a successful test of a Scramjet engine.

First Published: Jan 11, 2006 00:49 IST