India’s military research agency DRDO has successfully tested a scramjet-equipped flight demonstrator designed for cruising at Mach-6 speeds and aimed towards developing technology for future cruise missiles.
The projectile was launched on Monday from the Abdul Kalam Launch Complex at Wheeler Island off the Odisha coast, marking its second successful flight test. The previous test took place in June of last year and sparked rumors that it was only partially successful, due to problems with the Agni-I ballistic missile used to give the demonstrator the necessary start speed. Footage of the new test shows the launch as well as separation of the experimental vehicle from its booster.
The Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) is equipped with a scramjet engine, a type of propulsion system that requires a supersonic air flow to sustain fuel combustion. It allows an aircraft to move at very high speeds but also poses serious design and manufacturing challenges.
The test validates the Indian approach to the advanced system, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said in a statement. The now-proven critical technologies include “aerodynamic configuration for hypersonic manoeuvers, use of scramjet propulsion for ignition and sustained combustion at hypersonic flow, thermo-structural characterisation of high temperature materials, separation mechanism at hypersonic velocities etc.,” it said.
India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the project is now ready to progress to the next phase.
Scramjet technology is being explored by countries like the US, Russia and China, for military purposes. Potentially it may become the go-to propulsion system for future multistage long-range cruise missiles that would be difficult to intercept due to high speeds. It was also proposed for low-orbit space launches, though such a vehicle would require additional rocket propulsion to make the final leg of a trip.