The $1.25 million University of Queensland Hyshot project has passed its
latest test by successfully blowing its nose.

In multiple ground tests at UQ’s Centre for Hypersonics in Brisbane,
researchers made the rocket nose cone eject to expose its payload — the
fastest air-breathing engine ever built.

The Hyshot scramjet engine is expected to push along a Terrior Orion rocket
at Mach 7.6 — 7.6 times the speed of sound, or 2.4km a second — during a
flight experiment at Woomera on August 13, with a repeat experiment with a
second rocket on August 20.

This is a mite faster than the more sophisticated $400 million NASA X-43
scramjet test plane experiment also scheduled to fly this year. X-43 is
estimated to fly at Mach 7 or 2.2 km/sec.

Scramjets are air-breathing supersonic combustion ramjet engines. They
are set to revolutionise the launch of small space payloads, such as
communications satellites, by substantially lowering costs.

The HyShot Program will help underscore Australia’s position at the
forefront of hypersonic technological research. If successful, it will
open the door to a new way of flight testing.

Project leader Dr Allan Paull said a nose cone eject design provided by
NASA had proved unsuitable because it used pyrotechnics — gunpowder —
to dislodge the nose.

"However, this posed an unacceptable risk for ground tests on the UQ
campus and didn’t offer us the ability to do multiple tests," he said.

"So we developed a new system which uses compressed gas to fire off the
nose cone, much like popping off a champagne cork."

Dr Paull said Hyshot would reach an altitude of more than 300km before
separating from the Terrior Orion rocket and plunging back to earth.

The experiment will be conducted during the atmospheric re-entry phase
of the flight. The nose cone must eject to expose the scramjet because
on the downward flight path, about 35km above the earth, the scramjet
will activate, sending back data during a small window of opportunity
of about five seconds before crashing to ground.

It is hoped the experiment will validate information already captured in
the University’s T4 ground shock tunnel, one of the few facilities on earth
capable of conducting ground based scramjet experiments for flight Mach
numbers of the order of 8 or higher. Australia’s first professor of space
engineering, Emeritus Professor Ray Stalker, upgraded T4 for the project.

If the experiment works first time, the UQ researchers will use the second
test flight to take measurements on a more complicated engine which has
been proposed by DERA, (the UK Defence Evaluation and Research Agency).
Otherwise, they will reserve both tests for the simpler UQ experiments.

Dr Paull said Hyshot had already passed severe shaking and endurance stress
testing at BAE systems in Salisbury, near Adelaide. It returned to BAE May
14 to 16 to undergo thermal cycling tests. Both HyShot payloads were placed
in a thermal chamber and for three days and survived 6 temperature cycles
ranging from -24 degrees C to +61 degrees C.

From now on the researchers will work to complete the software programs

running the computer on board, and finalise paperwork for both their
experiments and potentially also for the DERA work. There will be a final
flight readiness review involving all concerned parties approximately one
month prior to launch.

The UQ Hyshot team includes Dr Allan Paull (Project Leader), Dr Hans Alesi
(Chief Engineer), Dr Susan Anderson (International Program Coordinator),
PhD student Judy Odam (Software Design), masters student Myles Frost
(Ground testing), Neil Griffith, Neil Duncan, Rob Low, Kyle Hall (Mechanical
Workshop), Barry Allsop, and John Peters (Electrical Workshop). Dr Paull’s
73-year-old father Bert, a retired chief engineer for Birch Carroll and
Coyle cinema chain has come out of retirement to assist with wiring
problems on the project.

ARC research fellow in the Centre for Hypersonics Dr Russell Boyce has
performed computational fluid dynamics (CFD) calculations to support the
experiment on the scramjet intake and exhaust, crunching numbers through a
UQ supercomputer. CFD has the advantage of highlighting potential problems
before flight tests are conducted. A number of fourth year mechanical and
space engineering students completed theoretical work on the nosecone eject
system using a dummy test rig.

The two rockets which will carry the scramjets have arrived in Australia and
are currently stored at Woomera. This was achieved after Astrotech Space
Operations secured export licences. The assistance of the Australian Embassy
in Washington was required to get the rocket motors on a suitable boat to
transport them to Australia. They will be fitted with the prototype scramjets
on site at Woomera.

The project uses the expertise of consortium partners such as:

* U.S. firms Astrotech Space Operations and GASL
* NASA Langley Research Center
* The DSTO (Defence Science and Technology, Organisation)
* Seoul National University
* the DLR (German Aerospace Center)
* NAL (National Aerospace lab. Japan)
* AFOSR (Air Force Office of Scientific Research, USA) and
* Australian Space Research Institute (ASRI).
* Australian firms Alesi Technologies, NQEA, AECA, Luxfer Australia.

BAE Systems Australia assists by providing operational and logistic support.
Funding has also been secured from the Department of Industry, Science and
Resources, the Australian Research Council and assistance and support from
the Ministry of Defence.

Command of the trials will be relinquished to ARDU (Aircraft Research and
Development Unit, Australian Defence) during the course of the one month
campaign at Woomera. They will be providing the expertise to run such a
complex campaign as well as the personnel to operate equipment vital to
the campaign’s success. In addition, DSCW (Defence Corporate Support,
Woomera) who control the Woomera range, have provided the opportunities
to liaise with Aboriginal and pastoral interests and have provided much
needed support in these areas.

Additional contact details:

DSTO — Mark Bateup
phone: 08 8259 7348,

Astrotech — Morgan Windsor
ph: 301 982 7876,

DERA — Dr Terry Cain
ph: 44 1252 395423,

NASA — Dr Randy Voland

DLR — Walter Beck
ph: 49-551-709 2470/2315,

An image of Dr Allan Paull and project chief engineer Hans Alesi at the
nose cone eject test is available at [1.23MB]

[NOTE: Additional images are available at ]