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RECENT TRENDS IN SCRAMJET ENGINE TECHNOLOGY

Problem Areas

4.1 The main difficulty in scramjet operation is the short residence time of air
in the engine i.e. a few thousandths of a second. So the task of burning the fuel
in the scramjet resembles lighting a match inside a tornado and keeping it alight
at any cost. The trick to work make a scramjet work lies in the extremely
sophisticated shaping of the tubes inner geometry and deciding at which part of
the tube the combustion is to be done. A scramjet generates stable thrust by
precisely controlling the speed and pressure of air flowing through the engine
and by metering the fuel into the combustor so that it burns fully and releases its
energy exactly as needed. Careful control of the relation between the flow area
and the heat release negates the need for mechanical choke of the Ramjet and
enables the scramjet to maintain supersonic flow through the combustor.

4.2 Managing the thermal energy generated in the engine is a Herculean task
for the researchers. Heat generation is primarily due to friction, from combustion
process as well as from the heat flux due to internal shock waves impinging on
the engine wall as wall of the fore body. “Active cooling” is the concept adapted
to prevent melting down of the structure of the vehicle. Therefore studies often
plan on "active cooling", where coolant circulating throughout the vehicle skin
prevents it from disintegrating from the fiery atmospheric friction. Active cooling
could require more weight and complexity. There is also safety concern since it's
an active system. Often, however, the coolant is the fuel itself, much in the same
way that modern rockets use their own fuel and oxidizer as coolant for their
engines. Both scramjets and conventional rockets are at risk in the event of a
cooling failure.
4.3 Another complexity involving the scramjet is that the given airflow
geometry is optimized for only a single and a particular set of flight conditions i.e.
speed, altitude etc. Successful scramjet operation is thus a delicate balancing act
of choosing the right material and design complication.

FUEL FOR SCRAMJET ENGINE

4.4 The primary difference between the rocket engine and a turbojet engine is
that rockets carry their own supply of oxygen internally while turbojet engines
suck in oxygen from the external atmosphere. The scramjet is an air breather,
meaning that it gets its oxygen from the surrounding air. However, the scramjet is
significantly different from other kinds of jet engines, like turbojets and ramjets, in
one key way. In most jets, the air sucked into the engines is slowed below Mach
1 and is combusted at subsonic speeds. The air within the scramjet combustion
chamber, however, remains “supersonic”.

4.5 In order to make a scramjet work, a fuel that can burn rapidly and
generate a large amount of thrust must be chosen. Hydrogen meets these
criteria. One way to illustrate the differences between various fuels and their
energy content is a measurement called the Lower Heating Value (LHV). The
LHV describes the amount of energy released when a fuel is combusted and all
of the remaining combustion products remain in gaseous form. The LHV for
hydrogen is 119,600 kJ/kg. JP-8, another fuel commonly used in military aircraft,
has a LHV of only 43,190 kJ/kg, less than half that of hydrogen. Hence, hydrogen
provides more "thrust” per kilogram than JP-8, or any other hydrocarbon fuel for
that matter. There are also other advantages to using hydrogen as a fuel. First
of all, hydrogen is extremely flammable, it only takes a small amount of energy to
ignite it and make it burn. Hydrogen also has a wide flammability range, meaning
that it can burn when it occupies anywhere from 4% to 74% of the air by volume.
Since hydrogen is a gas, it mixes very easily with air allowing for very efficient
combustion. Another advantage over hydrocarbon-based fuels like JP-8 or
gasoline is that hydrogen does not produce any harmful pollutants like carbon
monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), or particulate matter during the
combustion process.

4.6 There are some disadvantages to using hydrogen as a fuel in aerospace


vehicles. Hydrogen is not a dense fuel. At standard pressure and temperature, it
has a density of only 0.09 kg/m3. Compared to the density of gasoline at 750
kg/m3 or JP-8 at 800 kg/m3. While this low density is an advantage in terms of
saving weight, hydrogen requires a large volume in order to store an adequate
amount of chemical energy for practical use. Hydrogen gas is typically stored
under pressure to increase its density, but even at 10,000 psi (68,950 KPa) it will
contain only a quarter of the chemical energy stored in an equivalent volume of
JP-8. The density of hydrogen can be further increased by cooling and
pressurizing the substance to the point that it becomes a liquid, but even in this
form it will need a tank approximately twice the size of that required by JP-8. In
addition, the cost and safety issues involved in manufacturing and storing
cryogenically-cooled fuel is another major drawback. Despite the clear
advantages of hydrogen described earlier, more energy can often be stored in
smaller volumes using denser fuels. As a result, vehicles burning denser
hydrocarbon fuels can usually fly longer distances than those using hydrogen.

4.7 Even given these limitations, however, hydrogen has been a clear choice
for many scramjet researchers due to its versatility and performance. One of the
first hydrogen-fueled scramjets ever flown was the X-43A launched on 27 March
2004. The X-43A is part of NASA's Hyper-X program to develop new air-
breathing propulsion systems for use in hypersonic flight. A milestone in scramjet
research, the X-43A achieved positive acceleration while climbing at Mach 7 for
approximately 10 seconds.
Fig 4.1 COMPARISION OF HYDROGEN AND HYDROCARBON PERFORMANCE

4.8 Fuel Injection: The most difficult task in the design of a supersonic
combustion Ramjet engine is encountering the problems associated with
combustion of fuel in the combustion chamber. In order to ensure proper mixing
of fuel and air in the combustion chamber between Mach 2 and Mach 3, it is
imperative that the chamber has to be elongated in length. Several concepts are
being studied on this issue. There are various ways of injecting fuel into the
combustion chamber. They can be broadly classified into two categories: -

(a) Transverse injection. Transverse injection provides good


penetration and near field mixing but is inevitably accompanied by shocks
that reduce the total pressure. The total pressure is directly linked to
thrust, so it is important to ascertain the conditions under which these
serious losses occur.

(b) Parallel injection. Parallel injection way of injecting fuel in the


combustion chamber is injecting it parallel to the flow. This is not an
effective way since improper mixing occurs. So a compromise researched
which has solid or aerodynamic ramps. Oblique jets produced by angled
injection does exhibit less near field mixing in comparison with transverse
injection, but they resulted in good far- field mixing through the generation
of large vertical structures.

4.9 Injection from the side walls would produce very long mixing lengths;
therefore the fuel injection using the struts is also used by NASA Langley
research Center extensively. Three struts configuration as show in the Fig below
are used to provide six planes of in stream fuel injection. This feature shortens
the combustor well reduces the inlet length, since these struts provide a
significant part of the inlet flow compression.

4.10 In the recent years, cavity flame holders and integrated fuel injection
/flame holding approaches have been proposed as a way of flame holding and
stabilization in supersonic combustor. It is known that the growth rate of mixing
layer between supersonic air and gaseous fuel in a scramjet combustor
decreases as the convective Mach number increases due to compressibility
effect. The design of combustion chamber geometry and of fuel injection
elements as well as the combustion process is some of the major challenges
when developing Ramjet/ Scramjet engines.

4.11 Intake design considerations: In hypersonic air breathing engines, the


design and performance characteristics of the inlet play a vital role in the total
performance. The purpose of the intake is to ensure total pressure recovery and
mass flow regulation. The design of the intake influences the structural pressure
and cooling loads on the engine other than generation of thrust and impulse.
Intake is also associated with aerodynamic heating of the internal surfaces and
passages. Two types of intake design are in vogue. They are:
(a) Fixed Geometry inlet
(b) Variable geometry inlet
It is desired that a scramjet engine should operate at high inlet contraction ratios
at high flight speeds in order to keep the velocities in the combustor at the low
levels required for low momentum loss and high thrust. However, in contrast fixed
geometry inlets are limited to maximum contraction ratios because the inlet must
have the capability of starting of establishing supersonic flow in the inlet at the
low end of Mach number range.

4.12 It is also evident that the variable geometry inlet will offer only a 16 %
increase in the performance compared to fixed geometry. This comes with a
penalty in terms of increase in the system complexity, sealing and other
problems. It may also be apparent that high contraction ratios would result in
heating of the inlet thus cooling requirement of the engine. In turn the variable
geometry comes with higher weight and cost. Therefore studies often plan on
"active cooling", where coolant circulating throughout the vehicle skin prevents it
from disintegrating from the fiery atmospheric friction. Active cooling could
require more weight and complexity. There is also safety concern since it's an
active system. Often, however, the coolant is the fuel itself, much in the same
way that modern rockets use their own fuel and oxidizer as coolant for their
engines. Both scramjets and conventional rockets are at risk in the event of a
cooling failure
CURRENT PROJECTS

Recent advances in scramjet technology

5.1 There are several claims as to which group were the first to demonstrate a
"working" scramjet, where "working" in this case can refer to

(a) Demonstration of supersonic combustion in a ground test.


(b) Demonstration of net thrust in a ground test.
(c) Demonstration of supersonic combustion or net thrust in a ground test
with realistic fuels and/or realistic wind tunnel flow conditions.
(d) Demonstration of supersonic combustion in a flight test.
(e) Demonstration of net thrust in a flight test.

5.2 The problem is complicated by the release of previously classified material


and by partial publication, where claims are made, but specific parts of an
experiment are kept secret. Additionally experimental difficulties in verifying that
supersonic combustion actually occurred, or that actual net thrust was produced
mean that at least four consortiums have legitimate claims to "firsts", with several
nations and institutions involved in each consortium (For a further listing see
Scramjet Programs). On June 15, 2007, the US Defense Advanced Research
Project Agency (DARPA) and the Australian Defense Science and Technology
Organization (DSTO), announced a successful scramjet flight at Mach 10 using
rocket engines to boost the test vehicle to hypersonic speeds, at the Woomera
Rocket Range in Central Australia. No scramjet powered vehicle has yet been
produced outside an experimental program.

5.3 In recent years, significant progress has been made in the development of
hypersonic technology, particularly in the field of scramjet engines.US efforts are
probably the best funded, and the Hyper-X group has claimed the first flight of a
thrust-producing scramjet with full aerodynamic maneuvering surfaces. The first
group to demonstrate a scramjet working in an atmospheric test was a project by
an Australian team at the University of Queensland. The university's HyShot
project demonstrated scramjet combustion in July 30, 2002. The scramjet engine
worked effectively and demonstrated supersonic combustion in action, however
the engine was not designed to provide thrust to propel a craft, it was designed
more or less as a technology demonstrator. On Friday, June 15, 2007, the US
Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), in cooperation with the
Australian Defence Science and Technology Organization (DSTO), announced a
successful scramjet flight at Mach 10 using rocket engines to boost the test
vehicle to hypersonic speeds. The following nations have active scramjet
programs: -

(a) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


(i) NASP (CLOSED)
(ii) HYPER-X
(iii) HyTECH/HYSET
(iv) FASST
(v) FALCON
(vi) HyFLY

(b) AUSTRALIA
HYSHOT

(c) RUSSIA
(i) GLL Kholod,Igla (SA-5 MOUNTED)
(ii) GELA/RADUGA,ORYOL

(d) JAPAN

(e) GERMANY
SANGER

(f) CHINA

(g) UK
HOTOL(CLOSED)

(h) FRANCE
(i) PROMETHEE
(ii) JAPHAR

5.4 Detailed reports regarding the various projects being pursued by various
countries are given in references [4] to [10] including CFD analysis data and flight
data analysis (HyShot) data.

5.5 India has become force to reckon with its recent advancements in space
technology and the experience gained from its indigenous guided missile
development programme. As compared to the US, Indian efforts started very
recently in developing a scramjet engine/re-usable launch vehicle and we have
made rapid progress. As per reports, the ISRO has ground-tested scramjet
combustion for 6 seconds. The various projects in India for scramjet research
are: -
(a) ISRO
(i) CHANDRAYAN-RLV
(ii) AVATAR
(b) DRDL
HSTDV
(c) NAL
5.6 The “Hyper-X” X-43

Fig. 5.1 X-43 HYPERSONIC EXPERIMENTAL VEHICLE

In addition to the HyTech program the research efforts in scramjet technology


extended towards the Hyper-X vehicles. This project began in 1996 at NASA.
The hyper-X flew small test vehicle to demonstrate hydrogen fuelled scramjet
engine. In one of the test flight the X43A reached nearly Mach 10 speed.
Figure 5.2 HYPER-X FLIGHT TEST PROFILE

Since the ramjet/scramjet engine could not power itself to the engine operating
speeds, the plan for flight-testing was to attach the Hyper-X aircraft to a rocket
powered launch vehicle, and air launch the “stack” from underneath a B-52 wing.
The rocket powered launch vehicle was the Pegasus rocket, developed and built
by Orbital Sciences Corporation Launch Systems Group. However, the Pegasus
rocket to be used by the Hyper-X program was heavily modified. Initially a three-
stage launch system, the second and third stages was removed, leaving only an
Orion 50S solid rocket motor. The payload fairing normally used to protect
satellites was replaced with a ballast assembly and payload adapter for the
Hyper-X vehicle to be mounted in front. Furthermore, since the assembly would
spend all its time in the atmosphere, a new thermal protection system was added
to protect the booster’s composite structures (Orbital, 2002).

Indian efforts

5.7 The ‘Aerobic vehicle for hypersonic Aerospace Transportation’ (AVATAR)


is a hyper plane concept from India. This conceptual vehicle would be almost the
size of a MiG25 fighter airplane and is expected to deliver a payload of 500 Kg to
1000Kg to low earth orbit. It is expected to weigh 25 tonnes and is capable of
entering into a 100 Km orbit in a single stage and launching satellites which may
weigh up to 1 tonne. It is still in a conceptual stage and the estimated initial
development budget is around $5 million. BDL Hyderabad is involved in this
project.

5.8 Defense Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) has also begun
the research on supersonic combustion with hydrogen and kerosene fuel. A test
facility has been designed, developed and successfully tested. The facility
simulates the test conditions prevailing at the entry of typical scramjet combustor
operating at flight Mach number of 5 and at an altitude of 25 Km. The facility
mainly consists of a Hydrogen burner for generating hot gases to simulate
stagnation temperature, a supersonic nozzle and a supersonic combustor with
fuel injection systems and flame holding mechanism. In the hydrogen burner,
gaseous hydrogen and air are burnt to achieve the required temperature while
oxygen is added to the gases to keep its volume fraction in the vitiated air same
as that of air. The supersonic combustor is made up of an isolator, constant area
combustor and divergent section. Between the isolator and constant area
combustor, rearward-facing steps are provided for improvement of ignition and
flame holding characteristics. Provision was made to inject the gaseous fuel
transversely into the supersonic vitiated air from the walls. The fuel injection is
carried out in a staged manner. A very little amount of fuel known as pilot fuel is
allowed into the combustor ahead of the rearward-facing step. Most of the fuel
named as primary fuel is injected behind the steps. The combustor is tested for
duration of 15 seconds.

5.9 The National Aerospace laboratory (NAL) Bangalore has also carried out
the self ignition studies of hydrogen. The ignition and performance
characteristics of hydrogen fueled stepped combustor have been determined. It
was observed that the hydrogen ignition temperature was substantially constant
in the stagnation pressure range tested and was also found to be independent of
number of ports through which hydrogen was injected. In general, it has been
recognized that hydrogen fuel ignition in supersonic combustion testing is
frequently facility dependent.
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