Headlines > News > Revolutionary Scramjet Powers First X-51A Simulated Flight

Revolutionary Scramjet Powers First X-51A Simulated Flight

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Thu May 10, 2007 4:08 pm
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Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR), a United Technologies Corp. [NYSE: UTX] company, along with its X-51A team members — U.S. Air Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA and The Boeing Company — successfully demonstrated operation and performance of the revolutionary X-1 scramjet engine in the first simulated flight at Mach 5 of the X-51A.

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Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s X-1 scramjet engine powers first X-51A simulated flight at NASA Langley Research Center test facility.

“The X-1 engine is a breakthrough in hypersonic technology that will ultimately provide unprecedented range and speed for PWR customers,” said Mike McKeon, PWR manager of hypersonics and advanced programs. “The performance of X-1 in a test environment has exceeded our predictions, and is a major step toward bringing hypersonic flight into practical use.”

The X-1 demonstrator engine, designated SJX61-1, is a hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet engine featuring X-51A flight hardware, including a Full Authority Digital Engine Controller (FADEC) to orchestrate complex fuel controls and transitions, and a closed-loop thermal management system in which JP-7 fuel both cools engine hardware and fuels the engine’s combustor.

Testing was conducted at NASA Langley Research Center’s 8-Foot, High-Temperature Tunnel in Hampton, Va., from December 2006 through April 2007.

“This successful test is a critical step in the development of the X-51A integrated propulsion system. In addition, this marks the first time ever that the scramjet engine has been tested in a simulated ‘full flight’ propulsion configuration, which includes a Boeing designed full vehicle fore-body/inlet and nozzle,” said Charlie Brink, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s X-51A program manager.

The X-51A Flight Test Program plans to demonstrate scramjet engine technology within the Mach 4.5 to 6.5 range with four flight tests beginning in 2009. The program will set the foundation for several hypersonic applications, including access to space. The X-1 is the first of two ground test engines planned in the X-51A program.

Additional tests this year and early 2008 will verify engine performance and operability across the X-51A flight envelope and characterize the closed-loop thermal management system.

The X-51A Flight Test Program is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Air Force, DARPA, NASA, Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Inc., a part of Pratt & Whitney, offers a complete line of propulsion products for launch vehicles to missile defense to advanced hypersonic propulsion. These have been used in a wide variety of government and commercial applications, including the main engines for the space shuttle, Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, and missile defense systems.

Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, space propulsion systems and industrial gas turbines. United Technologies, based in Hartford, Conn., is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the global aerospace and building industries.

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