Science behind air-breathing scramjet engine

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) performed a major technological feat on September 7 when it flew a cruise vehicle at a hypersonic speed of Mach six for 20 seconds. The DRDO called the cruise vehicle Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV). The centrepiece of the HSTDV was the indigenously developed air-breathing scramjet engine, which formed the HSTDV’s propulsion system. If the mission’s aim was to prove this air-breathing scramjet engine in flight, it was achieved.

The critical technologies developed for the HSTDV mission were the scramjet engine and its ignition, sustaining the ignition, ethylene fuel, generation of maximum energy from the engine, development of materials to take care of the high temperatures that occurred due to air friction on the leading edges of the cruiser’s wings, tail surface and nose tip, and controlling the HSTDV with minimum drag and maximum thrust.

In an air-breathing scramjet engine, air from the

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