Scramjets – planes with Mach 15 speed – may become a reality now! To put things in perspective, the world’s fastest jet, the Air Force’s SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, set a speed record of Mach 3.3 in 1990 when it flew from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in just over an hour. That was supposed to be a limit for the jet engine. Well not now. Scramjets, on the other hand, can theoretically fly as fast as Mach 15—nearly 10,000 mph!
Recent breakthroughs in scramjet engines could mean two-hour flights from New York to Tokyo. They could also mean missiles capable of striking any continent in a moment’s notice. No wonder the race to develop them is as fierce as ever.
The test was successful:
The test was part of the X-51A Flight Test Program, a research project funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the Pentagon’s research arm. The X-51A project is, in turn, one piece of a global effort—part collaboration, part race—to build jet-powered aircraft that fly as fast as rocket ships. And the technology that will make this breakthrough possible is the scramjet, an engine that inhales air at tremendous speeds, squeezes the air until it’s thousands of degrees hot, and then mixes that air with fuel to generate massive thrust at higher speeds than any other jet-engine design.