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How Scramjets Work
02.09.06
 

A ramjet operates by combustion of fuel in a stream of air compressed by the forward speed of the aircraft itself, as opposed to a normal jet engine, in which the compressor section (the fan blades) compresses the air. The air flow through a ramjet engine is subsonic, or less than the speed of sound. Ramjet-propelled vehicles operate from about Mach 3 to Mach 6.

A scramjet (supersonic-combustion ramjet) is a ramjet engine in which the airflow through the engine remains supersonic, or greater than the speed of sound. Scramjet powered vehicles are envisioned to operate at speeds up to at least Mach 15. Ground tests of scramjet combustors have shown this potential, but no flight tests have surpassed the Mach 9.6 X-43A flight. See illustration below.

This graphic explains how air and fuel mix at supersonic speeds inside a scramjet engine
Image above: This simplified graphic illustrates how air and fuel mix at supersonic speeds inside a scramjet engine to propel the vehicle to many times the speed of sound. Credit: NASA
Click the image to view a larger graphic.

 
 
FS-2006-01-118-LaRC
NASA Langley Research Center
  PROGRAM DESCRIPTION 
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