ARFL selects scramjet team

Pratt & Whitney and Boeing Phantom Works have been selected by the US Air Force Research Laboratory to flight test the Endothermically Fuelled Scramjet Engine Flight Demonstrator.

Pratt & Whitney (P&W) and Boeing Phantom Works have been selected by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to flight test the Endothermically Fuelled Scramjet Engine Flight Demonstrator (EFSEFD), also known as the Scramjet Engine Demonstrator – WaveRider (SED-WR).

The first year contract, which is valued at $7.7 million, was awarded to the team to explore the airbreathing system-level potential of scramjets through multiple flight tests that will take place between 2007 and 2008.

Each flight will consist of one P&W engine that is based on technology from the Hydrocarbon Scramjet Engine Technology (HySET) program and will be integrated by Boeing into an expendable WaveRider configured air vehicle.

During the flight demonstrations, an SED-WR will be carried by a B-52 aircraft to an altitude of about 35,000 feet and released. Initially propelled by a solid rocket booster, the scramjet demonstrator take-over will occur at approximately Mach 4.5 where it then will accelerate to flight speed between Mach 6.0 to 7.0+.

‘Taking this program to flight is an important step in strengthening the foundation for a variety of hypersonic programs and applications,’ P&W SED Program Manager Curtis Berger said. ‘We have got to this point by utilising a system engineered, building-block approach.’

Last year, P&W under the direction of the AFRL, ground-tested the world’s first flight-weight, actively cooled, hydrocarbon-fuelled scramjet engine. It used standard JP-7 fuel to both cool engine hardware and fuel the engine’s combustor.

During tests at Mach 4.5 and Mach 6.5 this ground demonstrator engine, known as GDE-1, produced significant net positive thrust, which is important because it demonstrated the ability to efficiently burn fuel and accelerate a vehicle at these speeds. The thermal characteristics and structural durability of the engine were validated at both speeds.

‘The SED-WR Program is a breakthrough opportunity for the future of practical hypersonic propulsion,’ said Billy Burroughs, Boeing Phantom Works program manager for SED-WR. ‘Like a 21st century Wright Flyer, the SED-WR flight demonstrator is a critical first step in validating scaleable-Scramjet propulsion technology.’

Applications for this propulsion concept, derived from the Hypersonic Technology (HyTech) Program, include future access-to-space, global reach and fast-reaction, long-range unmanned and manned military systems.

The AFRL’s long-term vision for scramjet engines includes power for launch vehicles that can substantially reduce the cost of access to space and deliver aircraft-like operations. It also foresees applications for military and commercial aircraft that can span the globe in less than a few hours, and hypersonic missiles with Mach 6.5-plus-cruise capability that can fly hundreds of nautical miles in minutes.