Air Force tests High-Mach engine technology

Air Force tests High-Mach engine technology

Reactions Photo Engines

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Air Force is teaming up with a UK-based aerospace company to test the limits of hypersonic-capable engines.

Reaction Engines and the Air Force Research Laboratory have tested technology to simplify and improve high-Mach engine performance, the company recently announced. The testing was made possible through the Department of Defense’s Overseas Comparative Testing Program.

The tests focused on Reaction Engines’ thermal management technology developed for the Synergetically Breathing Air, or SABER, rocket engine and how it can be adapted for other propulsion uses, said Reaction Engines President Adam Dissel.

SABER uses oxygen from the atmosphere to burn fuel. The engine can allow flight at hypersonic speeds — defined as Mach 5 or more — in part because of a pre-cooling thermal envelope up front, Dissel said.

“This device actually takes the air coming in at the front of the engine and puts it out,” he explained. “It literally takes it in air as hot as lava, 1,800 Fahrenheit, and lowers it to whatever temperature you want…so the engine can be run without melting.”

SABER is then able to extract the energy created from the large heat exchange and use it to further power the engine’s propulsion, he added.

Testing at Reaction Engines’ TF2 high-temperature test site at the Colorado Air and Space Port required the company to triple the amount of air flowing through the engine to simulate high Mach flight conditions, resulting in in turn creates even more energy to use. by the engine, he said. The technology could be used for both high Mach flight and ground applications, he added.

Reaction Engines partnered with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 2017 to prove the viability of the pre-cooler in the field. With the new AFRL program, the company is testing whether it can use the pre-cooler to make other engines capable of high Mach flight, Dissel said.

“What we would really like to see…is if we could marry our thermal technology with a jet engine,” he said. “Could we end up with a faster jet engine without having to redesign the entire jet engine?”


Topics: Test and Evaluation, International, Air Force News

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