Hypersonic engine set for Mach 5 tests

Pratt & Whitney recently completed fabrication of a hypersonic Ground Demonstration Engine, successfully completing a nine-year, $58 million contract with the US Air Force Research Laboratory.

Pratt & Whitney (P&W) Space Propulsion recently completed fabrication of a hypersonic Ground Demonstration Engine (GDE-2) successfully completing a three-phase, nine-year, $58 million contract with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

P&W says the GDE-2 is unique in that it features a variable geometry inlet and a bolted construction, simulating the configuration of a reusable access-to-space or global-reach propulsion system.

The GDE-2 is undergoing preparations for testing at NASA-LangleyResearchCenter (LaRC). The first phase of the test program, which will evaluate the engine’s operation and performance at Mach 5 conditions, is scheduled to begin in October.

“GDE-2 is a fully integrated engine that will lead to advances in hypersonic flight systems,” said P&W’s Hydrocarbon Scramjet Engine Technology (HySET) Program Manager Denis Medwick. “This will be the first time a hydrocarbon-fuelled scramjet propulsion system, which includes a single integrated flow path, fuel control system, closed-loop thermal management system and a Full Authority Digital Engine Control, is tested at hypersonic conditions.”

P&W is developing hypersonic propulsion systems for strike, global-reach and access-to-space applications. The GDE-2 program will examine the functionality of these integrated technologies during Mach 5 ground testing.

A second test program to evaluate the operation of the engine at Mach 7 conditions is planned for next year. A P&W, US Air Force and Boeing team will use results from the GDE-2 test program in their Scramjet Engine Demonstrator – Wave Rider flight demonstration program scheduled to fly in 2008.

The GDE-2 engine was developed under the HySET program, a three-phase hypersonic technology program sponsored by the AFRL to develop and demonstrate a Mach 4-8 hydrocarbon-fuelled scramjet propulsion system.

In July 2003, P&W Space Propulsion teamed with US Air Force researchers under the HySET program and completed ground testing of the GDE-1 engine at speeds of Mach 4.5 and Mach 6.5. GDE-1 was the world’s first flight-weight, hydrocarbon-fuelled scramjet engine. It used standard JP-7 fuel to cool both engine hardware and fuel the engine’s combustor.