The hypersonic airplane prototype Quarterhorse Hermeus is equipped with a rocket motor which could allow it to reach a speed of Mach 5. The aircraft does not fly yet, but the American aircraft manufacturer is banking on its commercialization at the end of the decade.
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[EN VIDÉO] What happens when a plane crosses the sound barrier? What happens when a supersonic plane breaks the sound barrier? Why is a small cloud forming and an explosion? What are the physical constraints involved? Unisciel and the University of Lille 1 with the Kézako program provide us with answers in this video.
Carry passengers to a speed five times greater than that of sound, this is the ambition of American society Hermeus. Supported financially by the US Air Force, it has just unveiled at an Atlanta airport the prototype of its first plane hypersonique, the Quarterhorse. It is a non-flying aircraft, but during the presentation it was equipped with a functioning engine which was pushed to its maximum potential on the ground. At the moment, theaircraft that we can relate to a drone is 12 meters long. It is larger than the Boeing X-51 or even the little one X-43. Unlike the latter, it will be able to take off and land on conventional runways. The next flight tests will validate its homemade TBCC rocket engine. It is supplied by both fuel and oxidizer.
Aircraft maker Hermeus unveiled a hypersonic non-flying prototype and ran its rocket motor at full throttle. © Hermeus
A transport plane for 2030
The engine should allow it to reach speeds between Mach 3 and Mach 5 during its test flights scheduled for 2024, according to Hermeus. The turbine is based on the turbojet General Electric J85 which since 1960 has been equipping several fighter and civilian planes. For the moment TBCC has only been tested on the ground. While waiting for its first flights, the company recalls that it aims to create an aircraft capable of carrying 20 people at the speed of Mach 5 by the end of the decade.
Hermeus is not alone in designing this type of hypersonic engine. Pratt & Whitney is developing one called Metacomet. It is based on the J58 engine which powered the SR-71 Blackbird at Mach 3.4. Britain’s Reaction Engines, for its part, is testing key components of its Saber rocket engine. Finally, Hypersonix has carried out wind tunnel tests and plans to start testing its engine. Spartan Scramjet next year. The latter should be able to reach Mach 12 and equip a plane launcher from satellites.
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