Scramjets are here for real, and poised to propel the US Air Force forward into the hypersonic age, says the service’s chief scientist Mark Lewis.
As some indication of this the USAF is so encouraged by progress being made with DARPA on the Falcon hypersonic cruise vehicle project that it is planning to stump-up extra funding for a third HTV-2 demonstrator to fly sometime before Blackswift is scheduled to get airborne in 2012.
Recent design changes, including sharper leading edges, have improved the HTV-2's projected performance
HTV-2 is designed to pave the way for Blackswift by proving out many of the structures, and systems technologies developed to cope with the critical aerodynamic and aerothermal challenges of hypersonic flight. However the HTV-2 is a rocket-boosted glider and most believe the really clever part, the integrated air-breathing propulsion system that could finally make the hypersonic vision a reality, will be proven by Blackswift. Bids for Blackswift – are meanwhile due in to DARPA on May 19, and a contractor team is expected to begin work by September.
To hear comments about whether or not the hypersonic era is truly about to dawn listen to my conversation with Dr. Lewis at the AIAA space planes and hypersonics conference in Dayton, Ohio earlier this week.