ISRO scramjet engine test: Here’s what it signifies for the space agency

ISRO's scramjet technology will allow the space agency to eventually cut its launch costs by half with its Avatar program

Written by Varun Sharma | Updated: August 29, 2016 3:36 pm
ISRO tests, scramjet engine, what is a scramjet, ISRO scramjet test, ISRO, ISRO jet propulsion, ISRO rocket launch, indian rockets, ISRO launch, Avatar program, hypersonic engine, supersonic engine, supersonic flight, space flight, space launch, brahmos, brahmos II, science, science news ISRO’s Advanced Technology Vehicle with scramjet engines lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota (Source: ISRO)

ISRO continues to impress the country and the world, with the latest successful test of its Scramjet engine. The space agency’s ATV rocket was able to fly at Mach 6 (six times the speed of sound) speeds, propelling India into the league of only four nations to be capable of doing so. ISRO plans to use the scramjet technology for its Avatar program.

If you look at the schematics of a Scramjet (or Supersonic Combusting ramjet), it looks pretty straight forward – air gets sucked in from the front, fuel burns in middle and exhaust gas comes out of the back generating thrust. But this is where the simplicity of the design ends. Factors like air inlet design, air compressibility, complex flows, high temperatures, fuel injection, etc – make it really difficult to design a suitable scramjet powerplant. Scramjets are highly inefficient at low speeds, with their efficiency increasing at supersonic speeds.

So, why are scramjets important for ISRO? ISRO currently uses rocket launch vehicles like the PSLV to deliver satellites into orbit. PSLVs are expendable, meaning that can only be used once, and are designed to carry both fuel and oxidizer with for launch. Scramjets use ambient air to burn fuel, thus saving the need to carry an oxidizer – thus increasing the payload of a craft. ISRO claims that using Avatar for satellite launches will cut down launch costs by half. Since there are no rotating parts in a scramjet, the chances of failure are also measurably reduced.

ISRO’s reusable launch vehicle platform, called Avatar, is a concept that is capable of carrying out satellite launches – takes off vertically and lands back on a runway. The spacecraft is designed to use ramjets and scramjets for thrust. Each of these engines will be used in different stages of the flight – with ramjet used at lower speeds, scramjet at hypersonic speeds and cryogenic engines when the craft reaches the edge of the atmosphere.

This is not India’s first venture into hypersonic flight or scramjet technology. DRDO has reportedly been working with NPO Mashinostroyenia of Russia to develop the second generation Brahmos cruise missile powered by a scramjet, dubbed the Brahmos-II. Brahmos-II is being designed to be capable of flying 300 odd kilometers at a speed of Mach 7.

The current generation Brahmos is propelled using a liquid-fueled ramjet engine, making it possible for the missile propel forward at up to Mach 3 – the fastest for a cruise missile in the world today.

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  1. S
    Swesh Gupta
    May 6, 2017 at 6:49 am
    A third drdo programn is hstdv is underway to built completely indegenios hypersonic missile above mach 10 india already inducted a hypersonic missile named shaurya in land based missile programn
    Reply
    1. R
      Ravi
      Feb 22, 2017 at 2:11 pm
      IE is always anti-India to earn their livelihood from their paymasters.
      Reply
      1. R
        rajiv
        Aug 29, 2016 at 12:45 pm
        ISRO bringing back ....Vedic India
        Reply
        1. M
          MMJoshi
          Aug 28, 2016 at 1:27 pm
          What an achievement !!! But it is said to note that Indian Express publishes this news as an insignificant incident. Had it been some Modi bashing or pro terror news, IE must have published it prominently. What a regressive paper ?
          Reply
          1. K
            Kishore
            Aug 30, 2016 at 4:39 am
            yeah its a good thing to have sramp jet in India.....
            Reply
            1. K
              Kishore
              Aug 30, 2016 at 4:39 am
              yeah its good to have sramp jet in india.....
              Reply
              1. I
                Ind
                Aug 29, 2016 at 5:41 am
                God Bless America. ISRO must collaborate with NASA in Space technology.
                Reply
                1. P
                  Peter Peter
                  Aug 29, 2016 at 5:31 pm
                  When it comes to pimping innocent non-muslim girls to jihadis, Indian Express will write towering articles that will surprise even the ISIS molesters. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;When it comes to such significant technological news, Indian Express publishes it like it means nothing to them. I don't think journalists are even proper humans
                  Reply
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