Northrop Grumman scramjet engine produces record thrust in test

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A record for the highest thrust produced by an air-breathing hypersonic engine has been set by engineers in the USA.

The record was set by a ground test team at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the Air Force Test Center with a Northrop Grumman scramjet engine.

“AFRL, in conjunction with Arnold Engineering Development Complex and Northrop Grumman, achieved over 13,000 pounds of thrust from a scramjet engine during testing at Arnold Air Force Base,” said Todd Barhorst, AFRL aerospace engineer and lead for the Medium Scale Critical Components program.

Over a nine-month period, the 18ft long Northrop Grumman engine endured 30 minutes of total combustion time and was successfully operated at simulated conditions above Mach 4.

The scramjet is about the size of a conventional turbojet engine used in a fighter aircraft and significantly larger than the scramjet that powered the X-51A Waverider hypersonic vehicle.

“The plan for a larger and faster hypersonic air-breathing engine was established 10 years ago during the X-51 test program, as the Air Force recognized the need to push the boundaries of hypersonic research,” Barhorst said. “A new engine with 10-times the flow of the X-51 would allow for a new class of scramjet vehicles.”

Prior to the successful test the AEDC’s Aerodynamic and Propulsion Test Unit facility underwent a two-year upgrade to enable large-scale scramjet combustor tests over a range of test conditions after an evaluation of the nation’s test facilities concluded that none could test a large-scale scramjet engine in a thermally-relevant environment.

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