Chinese engineers from the Beijing Research Institute of Machinery are set to test a prototype combined-cycle hypersonic aircraft engine and first-stage carrier rockets later this year, Aviation Week reported.
That will pave the way for the first demonstration flight of a full-scale propulsion system by 2025.
As experts have noted, the main problem in the creation of such engines is the fact that each of them can operate in a narrow range of speeds but in order to design a power house that would accelerate the aircraft from zero to hypersonic speed (more than Mach 5 or over 6, 2,000 kilometers per hour), that is not yet possible.
The hypersonic engine, which the Chinese engineers are currently working on, is expected to be able to accelerate the aircraft from zero to speeds of more than Mach 10.
The development has been called TRRE [Turbo-aided Rocket-augmented Ram / scramjet Engine].
The uniqueness of such a design is that a single casing combines turbojet, rocket and ramjet air-jet engines together.
Furthermore, the nozzle of this combined power machine has a variable diameter – depending on the speed of flight and which of the three engines is running.
At the first stage of this flight, the engine will operate its low-speed turbojet component. At the next stage, after reaching Mach 2, a rocket and ramjet engine will be turned on.
After Mach 6, the rocket engine switches off and the ramjet reactive air passes into hypersonic mode with an additional supply of liquid oxygen to the combustion chamber.
If successful, the engine could be the first of its type in the world to power a hypersonic vehicle or the first stage of a two-stage-to-orbit spaceplane.