The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Monday successfully flight tested a Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), which is an unmanned scramjet vehicle with the ability to travel at six times the speed of sound.
The test was conducted at 11.03 am from Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Launch Complex at Wheeler Island, off the coast of Odisha.
The HSTDV tests the indigenously developed hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology. The scramjets are a variant of air breathing jet engines and have the ability to handle airflows of speeds much higher than the speed of sound. Hypersonic speeds are five times (or more) higher than the speed of sound.
The DRDO, in a series of tweets, stated, “In a historic mission today, India successfully flight tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), (which is) a giant leap in indigenous defence technologies and a significant milestone towards a Sashakt Bharat and Atmanirbhar Bharat. DRDO, with this mission, has demonstrated capabilities for highly complex technology that will serve as the building blocks for NextGen Hypersonic vehicles in partnership with the industry.”
A press statement from the Ministry of Defence said, “The hypersonic cruise vehicle was launched using a proven solid rocket motor, which took it to an altitude of 30 kilometres, where the aerodynamic heat shields were separated. The cruise vehicle separated from the launch vehicle and the air intake opened as planned. The hypersonic combustion sustained and the cruise vehicle continued on its desired flight path at a velocity of six times the speed of sound, which is nearly two kilometres per second, for more than 20 seconds. The critical events, like fuel injection and auto ignition of scramjet demonstrated technological maturity. The scramjet engine performed in a text book manner.”
At hypersonic speeds, the system has to handle very high fluctuating temperatures, as well as air speed, and thus, development of the material is one of the main challenges, among other complex technologies.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted, “The DRDO has, today, successfully tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle using the indigenously developed scramjet propulsion system. With this success, all critical technologies are now established to progress to the next phase.”
The parameters of launch and cruise vehicle, including the scramjet engine, were monitored by multiple tracking radars, electro-optical systems and Telemetry Stations. A ship was also deployed in the Bay of Bengal to monitor the performance during the cruise phase of hypersonic vehicles. “All performance parameters have indicated a resounding success of the mission,” the MoD said.
The special project of the DRDO consisted of contributions from its multiple facilities, including the Pune-headquartered Armament and Combat Engineering Cluster. DRDO scientists said the test conducted on Monday was a major milestone, as well as a stepping stone for the development of hypersonic systems in both the defence as well as the civilian sector. These include both offensive and defensive hypersonic cruise missile systems, and applications in the space sector.
“Chairman DRDO Dr G Satheesh Reddy congratulated all the scientists, researchers and other personnel related with HSTDV mission for their resolute and unwavering efforts towards strengthening the nation’s defence capabilities,” the press statement read.