A team that includes NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is celebrating the successful launch of an experimental hypersonic scramjet research flight from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.
NASA, AFRL and Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) are working with a number of partners on the HIFiRE (Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation Program) program to advance hypersonic flight normally defined as beginning at Mach 5 five times the speed of sound. The research program is aimed at exploring the fundamental technologies needed to achieve practical hypersonic flight. Being able to fly at hypersonic speeds could revolutionize high speed, long distance flight and provide more cost-effective access to space.
During the experiment the scramjet aboard its sounding rocket climbed to about 100,000 feet (30,480 meters) in altitude, accelerated from Mach 6 to Mach 8 (4,567 to 6,090 miles per hour; 7,350 to 9,800 kilometers per hour) and operated about 12 seconds a big accomplishment for flight at hypersonic speeds. It was the fourth of a planned series of up to 10 flights under HIFiRE and the second focused on scramjet engine research.