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March 2007 edition

Boeing's hypersonics collaboration pays off for scramjet development

By Daniel Cook

Boeing's research into a viable "scramjet" will receive a powerful boost over the next two years from its collaboration on a series of ten hypersonic flight tests at Australia's Woomera range. Boeing (which posted 2006 profits of U.S. $2.2bn) will oversee three of the 10 tests, and gain access to data from the whole $54m programme, at a cost to the plane-maker of only $1.5m over three years.

It will use its participation in HiFire (Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation) to corroborate data collected in its own ground tests, and says the tests will go a long way to maturing scramjet technology. Boeing's role will focus on aerodynamics: thermals, stability and controls, and airframe materials.

HiFire was jointly established by the US Air Force Research Laboratory, Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organisation, and the University of Queensland. Boeing will now become a major contributor. (See: Boeing and DSTO push back hypersonics frontiers in Airframer February).

"We have responsibilities and involvement in every test and have access to all the data," says Kevin Bowcutt, Boeing's chief scientist of hypersonic design. "We saw an opportunity at Boeing to invest a little bit of money, get a lot of matching, leveraging funds from others, and be able to test some of our advanced ideas to get a lot of data."

Scramjets (supersonic combustion ramjets) could one day propel an aircraft or missile at speeds of mach 10, and in theory they could go a lot fas....

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