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On Thursday, a small team from the University of Queensland launched its second rocket within a week to set the stage for faster, cheaper air travel. From its launch pad in Woomera, Australia, HyShot IV carried a scramjet engine over 190 miles skyward--the goal being to help the scramjet gain enough speed on its return to ignite for six seconds before a planned crash landing. It was hoped the engine would reach a a speed of Mach 8, eight times the speed of sound, or about 5,000 miles per hour. The launch tested a scramjet engine with an advanced fuel injector developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Scramjets, short for supersonic combustion ramjets, may someday launch satellites more cheaply--or even take passengers from London to Sydney in about two hours, proponents say. The test engines need a rocket boost as they will not ignite until reaching a speed of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. The engine sucks oxygen from the atmosphere to burn its hyrdrogen fuel. Scramjet engines are expected to be ready for commercial use in about 10 years.
Rainer Kirchhartz, Dillon Hunt, Allan Paull and Thomas Jaszra conduct magnetometer tests on magnetic fields of the HyShot IV before launch.
Hunt, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Queensland, examines the HyShot IV scramjet payload before launch.
The HyShot IV rocket has a personality with its own name and autographs from team members.
Queensland graduate students (left to right) Hunt, Samantha Coras and Rainer Kirchhartz examine the HyShot III scramjet engine before final assembly.
Students Mark Bateup, Dillon Hunt and Rainer Kirchhartz prepare the HyShot III stainless steel engine for launch. This engine was developed by U.K. company Qinetiq.
HyShot chief engineer Hans Alesi (foreground) and DTI Associates engineer Mike McCluskey (back to camera) position the HyShot III experimental scramjet payload and rockets.
The HyShot III sits on the launch pad. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, granted about $1.5 million to the University of Queensland to build the advanced launcher for peaceful scientific experiments.
The chart shows the flight plan for HyShot III and HyShot IV. Note the test of the scramjet engine doesn't begin until No. 11 and ends at No. 12 on the chart--a time of about 6 seconds.
This is not a big-budget operation. Master of philosophy student Samantha Coras inflates a weather balloon to test winds before the HyShot III launch.
A successful launch for HyShot III over the weekend. If it's any consolation to Elon Musk, whose SpaceX launch ended in failure on the same day, the first HyShot launch went out of control.
Unlike any recovery team from NASA, Ross Paull of the University of Queensland Center for Hypersonics helps dig out the first stage of the rocket. The second stage payload was found about 250 miles from the launch site.
Celebration after a successful launch. From the left are HyShot team members Lisa Jensen, Allan Paull and Michael Smart.