Japanese Scramjet Tested Over Australian Outback

Researchers in Australia's Outback launched a test flight Thursday of a supersonic jet designed to fly 10 times faster than conventional airplanes.

The test flight was conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland under commission from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, in the remote community of Woomera, about 310 miles north of the South Australian state capital, Adelaide.

The so-called Supersonic Combustion Ramjet — or scramjet — engine was designed to travel at speeds of up to 5,000 mph, or 10 times the speed of conventional aircraft, the University of Queensland said in a statement.

"The rocket launch looked as expected. We had another clean liftoff," Prof. Michael Smart said.

Thursday's launch was the second test flight in less than a week, and was intended to generate data about flight performance of a 220-pound scramjet engine with an advanced fuel injector developed by JAXA.

The data will be compared with results of ground tests performed in Japan, the statement said.

The university said it would make an announcement about the results of the experimental flights in the coming weeks.

The U.S. has already carried out a flight test with a scramjet engine, while the European Union, Japan, China, Russia and India are in different stages of testing their technologies.

Some observers say scramjet technologies could revolutionize air travel. Officials at the University of Queensland have said scramjet-powered passenger jets are still a long way off. But it might be possible to use a scramjet-powered plane within the next 10 years for limited purposes, such as delivering vital organs for urgent transplant operations.