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The Ramjet Engine

The Ramjet Engine

Running Head: THE RAMJET ENGINE The 20th century saw the advent of many new technological advances, specifically, in aviation. The idea of flying has been around for centuries but thanks people around the world it finally became a reality. Aircraft originally started out as flimsy frames barely capable of leaving the ground. Now we have aircraft that can fly to the edge of our atmosphere and beyond. Military research and demand has always been an advocate for advancing current technology. To no surprise, needs arouse which required a propulsion system more powerful than a traditional piston or radial engine. In the early 1900s, the idea of ramjet was originally introduced by the French inventor, Ren Lorin. Lorin, however, lacked the funding and materials to ever make his dream a reality. The idea of a ramjet engine was not lost. Almost simultaneously, Albert Fon of Hungary devised the idea of implementing ramjet technology with artillery shells. His end idea was to create a lighter artillery platform that could propel a projectile greater distances than any other system at the time. Fons proposals were ultimately rejected as the First World War came to an end. Despite his rejections, he returned to designing his new engine in the late 1930s, with the intention of pairing the ramjet engine with an aircraft. After four years of struggling with the German government, he finally had his patents approved in 1932. The first ramjet to be built is accredited to Russia. After Boris Stechkin presented the theory of ramjet engines, Yuri Pobedonostsev, carried out the research and enabled the funding for the first prototype to be made. The second prototype produced, was essentially a ramjet projectile, which was then fired from a cannon to achieve the velocity needed to sustain engine operation. In 1939, after years of research, the first flight of an aircraft powered by a ramjet took place. In 1944, due to many reasons, the Russian ramjet projects were all canceled. The United States first made an entry into ramjet research with the Gorgon missile program. The program

Running Head: THE RAMJET ENGINE had a general intent of producing better missile systems by studying a variety of flight mechanics and propulsion systems. The first real successful push into ramjet technology came in the mid-50s, when French aviator and inventor Ren Leduc who worked for the state owned Nord Aviation produced the Nord 1500 Griffon. The original request was by the French Air Force was to build a fighter aircraft that could fly at Mach 2. Once the prototypes were finished, they were instead never put into full production and were only ordered as research aircraft. The Principles of a Ramjet The basic idea of a ramjet is a rather simple one and the only true difference between a ramjet and a turbo jets operation is the air inlet and compression. A turbojet compresses air through a series of internal spinning fans that gradually smashes the air together as it proceeds further in the engine. Due to these spinning fans, air can be taken into the engine while being idle on the ground and while in flight. The ramjet is, however, more of a hollow tube. It possesses no fans for compressing air and can therefore not produce any thrust while it is not in motion. A ramjet compresses air only during flight, and generally only while flying at fast speeds. Most ramjet designs include a cone at the air inlet, which directs and smashes the air together completely by force. While a ramjet is in flight, the relative wind to the engine is forced into the inlet, compacted by the cone and directed straight through into the exhaust. The compression of air also causes the air to be heated to the temperatures needed for combustion of fuel. As the compressed air is forced further through the engine, fuel is introduced. Once the fuel is ignited, the temperature and pressure of the air increases dramatically again. When air is heated, it tries to expand due to the molecules violently moving around and pressing on one

Running Head: THE RAMJET ENGINE another. Since the air is expanding, it can be harnessed and used to produce thrust. The thrust is created by directing the expanding air out of the exhaust, which leaves the engine faster than it entered. The idea behind it is the same as if you were to inflate a balloon and pop a hole in the side of it. Different air pressures tend to want to equalize, the result of which can be thrust. Pressure of incoming air is also an important aspect of engine operation. The incoming air creates almost a wall that forces the engine to eject spent fuel out the exhaust, and not the air inlet. The expansion of air inside the engine wants to expand in all directions, but because of the airflow it is forced to go out the exhaust. As the airspeed increases air coming into the engine is compressed even more greatly, allowing for more fuel to be burned. In theory, a ramjet could accelerate almost infinitely, the only thing truly holding it back is the limitation of materials used in construction. To prevent a ramjet from accelerating nonstop, thrust is limited by the amount of fuel sprayed into the engines combustion chamber. The SR-71 Blackbird After the Second World War, nuclear tensions between the United States and Russia grew increasingly worse. Many attempts were made at sending spies into Soviet areas but they were ultimately unsuccessful. Several aerial missions were also aimed at infiltrating Soviet airspace, which resulted in many aircraft being shot down. The idea came about that the United States needed to build an aircraft that was capable of flying at speeds above Mach 3, and altitudes greater than 80,000 feet. The project was soon accepted by Lockheeds Skunk Works division, which had the aircraft operational and flying missions by the early 1960s. While the SR-71s engine, the Pratt & Whitney J58-P4, was not solely a ramjet engine, it was nonetheless and incredible innovation and advancement in the technology. The J58-P4 was

Running Head: THE RAMJET ENGINE essentially the hybrid of a turbojet and a ramjet. The decision to do so was so that the aircraft could operate effectively below subsonic, and above supersonic speeds. The aircraft itself was also a true technological marvel of the time, requiring basic components to be completely reengineered to withstand the incredible temperatures of Mach 3 flight. The entire airframe and shell of the aircraft was constructed of titanium, which was ironically bought by fake companies setup by the United States government from Russia. Construction methods with the titanium involved casting the largest pieces of solid metal ever done, demanding new techniques in metalworking. New composite materials also had to be developed for wiring and the tires to ensure that they did not melt while in flight. The lubricant designed for the aircraft were made to endure such high of temperatures that when the aircraft sat on the ground with cold engines, the lubricant was actually solid and required heating before the engines were started. Even the fuel developed had to be able to withstand the temperature, the result was JP7. JP7 had a boiling point of over 500 degrees Fahrenheit and also assisted in cooling the entire aircraft. The fuel was resistant enough to burning that in order to ignite the engines, Triethylborane, a chemical that explodes when contacted by air, was used to start the combustion process. The flight suit worn by the pilots was also designed from the ground up specifically for their mission. Resembling more of an Astronauts space suit, the SR-71s flight suit was made to be a fully enclosed environment, with a bladder that acted as a thermal regulator and a pressure suit. The outside of the suit was also constructed to be as fire retardant as possible. The SR-71s engines were also completely designed to handle the forces of supersonic speed in order to create the absolute most thrust possible. The shock cone at the front of the engine played a major role in how the engine functioned. When on the ground and during flight

Running Head: THE RAMJET ENGINE in speeds of up to Mach 1.5, the cone would be in a full forward position, leaving all the air compression up to the turbo jets compressors. As flight speed further increased, the cone would gradually retract into the engine. The purpose of this was to slow the air down going into the compressor to prevent damage. To further protect the compressor, once the temperature entering was around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, the blades would turn to an axial position to reduce pressure, allow the air to slow down, and to allow the air to cool. Once the compressor blades were in an axial setting, the cone would be fully retracted, opening a set of 6 bypass doors. The bypass doors prevented a majority of the air from entering the compressor, instead, it dumped the air straight into the exhaust; another purpose the bypass served was cooling the entire engine with the air flow. The air that made it through the compressor was used to keep the turbine spinning, in order to provide power to the rest of the aircraft. At this stage, the engines were acting as a true ramjet. Fuel delivery at this point occurs solely in the exhaust, the same way an afterburner works. Four fuel delivery rings lined the entrance into the exhaust, amount of fuel delivered and the expanding and contracting of the exhaust nozzle further controlled the speed of the aircraft. Due to the revolutionary design of the SR-71 Blackbird it was capable of accomplishing its mission of spying on Russia. Along with that, it has also set a few speed records. The plane broke several speed and altitude records. With acknowledged speeds, true speeds and ceilings of the aircraft are classified, the aircraft could fly at Mach 3.6. At those speeds, flying from New York to London took just over two hours; a complete lap around the Earth would have taken about 10 hours. These records show that, while not being the most fuel efficient, the ramjet is a truly incredible engine.

Running Head: THE RAMJET ENGINE Graham, Richard H. SR-71 Revealed: The Inside Story. St Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company, 1996. Jenkins, Dennis R. Lockheed Secret Projects: Inside the Skunk works. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company, 2001. Merlin, Peter W. From Archangel to Senior Crown: Design and Development of the Blackbird., Reston, Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), 2008. Pace, Steve. Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Swindon, UK: Crowood Press, 2004.