India joins elite nations with scramjet technology

By agencies   |   Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 08:00 Hrs
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BANGALORE: India has joined a handful of countries with the technology to build a new type of supersonic rocket that could reduce satellite-launching costs by nearly 90 percent, the Indian space agency said. The Supersonic Combustion Ramjet or Scramjet technology should eventually help India build lighter and faster rockets, the Indian Space Research Organization said. Earlier this week Indian scientists tested a prototype Scramjet engine for seven seconds, simulating travel at six times the speed of sound, S. Krishnamurthy, spokesman, ISRO said. Conventional rockets carry their own oxygen to burn as fuel, but Scramjet rockets will take oxygen from the atmosphere, making them lighter and faster. "We need this new technology to do that (take in air) at a velocity of Mach six," Krishnamurthy said, adding that Indian scientists hope Scramjets will eventually be able to reach speeds as high as 24 times the speed of sound. The U.S. has already carried out a flight test with a Scramjet engine, while the Europe Union, Japan, China, Russia and Australia are in various stages of testing their technologies. Indian scientists hope that Scramjets could bring the cost of launching satellites from the current level of $12,000 or more for 2.2 pounds of payload to less than $1,000. "We have now proven our technology on the ground and hope to do flight-test within two years, though mastering the technology might take up to 10 years from now," he added.