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A “Supersonic Combustion RAMJET” is called a

SCRAMJET. Ramjet is the simplest of all engines “at least
in theories” it contains no major moving parts and is
mainly used in missiles where high velocities and small
size both are necessary . But in practical cases to sustain a
combustion in these engines is very difficult, its more like
lighting a match stick in a hurricane. At higher speeds for
obtaining maximum efficiency it is necessary to combust
the fuel supersonically that’s when scramjet becomes
Hypersonic Speed
Comparison of the fastest modes of transportation:
 The fastest production car “SSC Aero” travels at speeds just
over 400 kmph.
 Fastest train TGV travels at speeds close to 550 kmph.
 Commercial airlines travel at high subsonic speeds which
are very close to speed of sound.
 Fighter aircrafts travel can travel at speeds in excess of
mach 2.
 Whereas a scramjet can travel at speeds above mach 20.
Scramjets are a direct derivative of the ramjet so it is
more convenient to discuss the design of ramjets as their
design are comparatively simpler than scramjets:
 Its design has more to do with a rocket than a jet engine
the only difference between a rocket and a scramjet engine
is that a scramjet collects the air from the atmosphere.
 Ramjets are easier to build for higher operating
temperatures than turbojets, and produce less drag.
 Capable of flight at higher speeds than turbojets but they
cannot usefully operate below about 400mph.
 The only difference between them is that, ramjets must
slow intake air down to subsonic speed for fuel mixing
and combustion by compressing it at the inlet.
 At conventional supersonic speeds with subsonic
combustion this is more efficient than using a bladed
compressor, but at higher speeds the shock wave which
forms during the compression process causes a high drag
on the engine.
 A simple scramjet engine looks more like two funnels
connected at their necks just like a venturimeter here the
first funnel acts as the intake and the next funnel as the
 The air is compressed and heated as it speeds up at the
centre of the engine at the narrow section where the
funnels join and compression is greatest the air is mixed
with fuel which spontaneously ignites resulting in more
heat and the gases expand and exit just like a rocket
producing thrust.
 Scramjets are designed so as to minimize the drag as
much as possible because the kinetic energy of the free
stream air entering the scramjet engine is large
compared to the energy released by the reaction of the
oxygen content of the air with a fuel
Developments in the Field
 X-15-A2
On the final flight of the X-15-A2 (flight 188), the shock waves sent out by
the scramjet at Mach 6.7 caused extremely intense heating of over 2,700
degrees Fahrenheit. This then drilled into the ventral fin and melted large
From 1962-1978, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL)
undertook a classified program (declassified in 1993) to develop a family of
missiles called SCRAM8 (Supersonic Combustion RAmjet Missile). Tests
showed that acceptable combustion efficiency was only achieved with over
20% pentaborane (B5H9) in MCPD (C12H16).
 Hyper-X
This program involves flight testing through the construction of the X-43
vehicles. NASA first successfully flew its X-43A scramjet test vehicle on
March 27. After it separated from its mother craft and booster, it briefly
achieved a speed of 5,000 miles per hour (8,000 km/h), the equivalent of
Mach 7. Its engines ran for eleven seconds, and in that time it covered a
distance of 15 miles (24 km) attaining a velocity of 10,620 km/h, nearly
Mach 10 on 16 November 2004.
 HyShot
The team took a unique approach to the problem of accelerating
the engine to the necessary speed by using an Terrier-Orion
sounding rocket to take the aircraft up on a parabolic trajectory
to an altitude of 314 km. As the craft re-entered the
atmosphere, it dropped to a speed of Mach 7.6. The scramjet
engine then started, and it flew at about Mach 7.6 for 6 seconds.
 India
The Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre
(VSSC) of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has
designed and ground tested a scramjet in 2005. A press
release states that stable supersonic combustion was
demonstrated in ground testing for nearly seven seconds with
an inlet Mach number of six.

 Special Cooling
A Scramjet stays within the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.
Time in the atmosphere at hypersonic speed would be
considerable, possibly 15-30 minutes. Similar to a re-entering
space vehicle, heat insulation would be necessary for the craft.
Ceramics provide excellent heat insulation but they sacrifice
themselves so an active cooling system is necessary.
 Engine Weight
Scramjet scores over a rocket as it carries less fuel but the engine
weight is a crucial factor. The logic behind efforts driving a
scramjet is (for example) that the reduction in fuel decreases the
total mass by 30%, while the increased engine weight adds 10%
to the vehicle total mass. But a small change can either favour or
go against the engine.

 Requirement of Additional Propulsion

A scramjet cannot produce efficient thrust unless boosted to high
speed, around Mach 5, depending on design, although, it could
act as a ramjet at low speeds. Many proposals instead call for a
first stage of droppable solid rocket boosters, which greatly
simplifies the design.
 Design Simplicity
Scramjets have few to no moving parts. Most of their
body consists of continuous surfaces. With simple fuel
pumps, reduced total components, and the re-entry
system being the craft itself making the whole stuff
 Testing difficulties
Unlike jet or rocket propulsion systems facilities which
can be tested on the ground, testing scramjet designs use
extremely expensive hypersonic test chambers or
expensive launch vehicles, both of which lead to high
instrumentation costs.
 Lack of stealth
There is no published way to make a scramjet powered vehicle
stealthy- since the vehicle would be very hot due to its high
speed within the atmosphere it should be easy to detect with
infrared sensors. However, any aggressive act against a scramjet
vehicle would be difficult because of its high speed.
 Re-entry
The scramjet's heat-resistant underside potentially doubles as its
re-entry system, if a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle using non-
ablative, non-active cooling is visualised. If active cooling is
used, the loss of all fuel during the burn to orbit will also mean
the loss of all cooling for the thermal protection system.
 The first and foremost necessity is definitely speed, the
ever growing thirst to go faster.
 The scramjet is intended to avoid the high drag and low
combustion efficiency of other types of engine at high
Mach number by maintaining supersonic airflow through
the whole engine.