Hypersonic Propulsion News and Developments

Forest Green

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11 June 2019
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LOL at SpaceNews' crappy new website design. :rolleyes:

New DOD-funded project will develop morphing hypersonic engine​

Illustration of scramjet hypersonic propulsion engine design by UCF, which will be used to investigate the flow conditions and the adaptive morphing engine control system designs.
A brief article in The Economist on MHD for steering hypersonic aircraft. Not a great deal of technical depth but it gives a name to watch.

Steering hypersonically using conventional control surfaces, like wings and ailerons, is out of the question. The forces and heat involved would destroy them. Smaller versions called trim tabs can help a bit. But what is really needed is a different approach. And, as he told delegates at last week’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver, Hisham Ali of the University of Colorado, Boulder, is one of those proposing just that. He thinks the answer is to be found in a field called magnetohydrodynamics.

Aerodynamics manipulates gases. Magnetohydrodynamics manipulates plasmas. These are gas-like fluids whose atoms have been ionised by losing some or all of their electrons—as happens to the air, by frictional heating, when an object travels hypersonically through the atmosphere. Since a plasma’s particles are electrically charged (the electrons negatively and the ions positively), their flow pattern over a hypersonic vehicle could be altered using a set of electromagnets within. Changing the plasma flow would also change the craft’s trajectory, at a rate controllable via the electromagnets. Additionally, the plasma’s passage could be harnessed to produce electricity inside the craft, perhaps powering the magnets.
The front of the fictional Orion III had what looked like a Supersaber intake…here something like that could be a plasma Skvall type deal.

If you have a plasma handling system..might you need a bustle trunk tail for coils?
Proof of concept of aircraft with no moving control surfaces relying on blown gas has been done, BAE had the MAGMA drone demonstrator which flew in 2019 and used supersonic engine exhaust gases redirected into and out of the wings to change airflow over them (so you could lower the air pressure on one wing while raising it on the other and vice versa) and additionally blown into the engine exhaust nozzle for thrust vectoring and Boeing subsidiary Aurora is currently building the X-65 for DARPA which operates on similar principals (uses bottled gas rather than redirected engine exhaust) though it hasnt flown yet and has a backup set of physical control surfaces in case something goes wrong in testing unlike the aircraft BAE flew.

Edit: After looking it up BAE did the Phase 0 design library and airflow modelling for the X-65 while Aurora are doing the Phase 1 detailed aircraft design up to preliminary design review and phase 2 development of flight software and ground testing of controls while the phase 3 aircraft construction and flight testing hasnt been awarded yet.
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MagnetoHydroDynamics (MHD) involves generating magnetic fluxes to actionate air flows. Nothing like pulsating gases.
Note that the idea have been discussed for long. I have been mentioning this for long myself, including using the shrouding effect of plasma layers around an hypersonic body to generate a degree of stealth (something I call Hyperstealth).

Reciprocally, hypersonic bodies are potentially exposed to external actuation of their surrounding airflow to generate soft/hard kills (also long discussed, early on by me).

See as attached file and example of reducing the heat load of re-entry vehicle by using MHD to lesser drag, hence heat.


  • 19650010875.pdf
    1.7 MB · Views: 12
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