June 15, 2007 / 9:06 AM / 12 years ago

Jet engine tested at 10 times speed of sound

A hypersonic test rocket lifts off from its launch pad at the Woomera Test Facility in the South Australian outback, June 15, 2007. REUTERS/Department of Defence/Handout

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An experimental jet engine has been successfully tested at speeds of up to 11,000 km (6,835 miles) per hour, or 10 times the speed of sound, during trials in Australia’s outback, defense scientists said on Friday.

The experimental scramjet engine is an air-breathing supersonic combustion engine being developed by Australian and U.S. defense scientists that researchers hope will lead to super-high speed flight.

Scientists from Australia’s defense Science and Technology Organization and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), used a conventional rocket to launch the scramjet high above the Woomera test site.

The engine was then tested as it reached speeds of Mach 10.

Scramjets need a rocket to propel the vehicle to high-speed before the engine can take over. They also need to operate in the thin atmosphere far above the altitude of commercial airliners.

“All the indications are it was a success, and we have some very happy scientists,” an Australian defense spokesman told Reuters on Friday.

Flight data will be examined over coming weeks and compared to ground tests conducted in the United States, DARPA chief researcher Steven Walker said in a statement.

“We are pleased with this joint effort between the U.S. and Australia and believe that a hypersonic airplane could be a reality in the not too distant future,” Walker said.

Scientists say the scramjet engine could lead to high-speed flights on long-range missions, as well as new low-cost ways to launch satellites into space.

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