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Q. ISRO's scramjet engine: Discuss importance of Scramjet engine and its role in ISRO's space mission.
Aug 30, 2016 Related to : GS Paper-3

Ans :

Introduction-

Recently ISRO has successfully launched indigenously developed scramjet engine and with its success it has joined elite club of space organisation who developed their own scramjet engine. It is first major step towards developing an air breathing propulsion system.

Scramjet Engine and its importance-

  • Rockets combine a liquid fuel with liquid oxygen to create thrust. In scramjet engine the oxygen needed to combust is taken from the atmosphere passing through the vehicle, instead of from a tank onboard.
  • As a result, the amount of oxygen required to be carried on board would be reduced considerably as atmospheric oxygen is utilised to burn the fuel in the first stage.
  • Generally propellant accounts for nearly 85% of the weight of a rocket, and oxygen accounts for nearly 60% of the weight of the propellant. Hence the craft becomes smaller, lighter and faster. And it will carry more payload with low cost.

ISRO’s success-

  • Recent test flight by ISRO’s attained six times the speed of sound (Mach 6) and was able to achieve ignition and maintain stable combustion even at such high velocity for about six seconds, is a big technological achievement.
  • The air intake mechanism and fuel injection systems were also successfully demonstrated during the maiden test flight.
  • With this success, critical technologies such as ignition of air-breathing engines at supersonic speed, holding the flame at supersonic speed, air intake mechanism and fuel injection systems have been successfully demonstrated by ISRO.

Issues-

  • As it relies on oxygen present in the atmosphere, scramjet rockets climb to a certain altitude and remain in the atmosphere for as long as possible to achieve the required velocity.
  • Hence it will take many years before a commercial rocket powered by a scramjet engine takes to the sky as there are several challenges to be overcome.

Challenges-

  • Testing scramjet engine at higher Mach speeds and prolong the period of combustion is challenging.
  • Scramjet comes into play only when the rocket goes beyond Mach 5, an engine that initially works at subsonic speed (as a ramjet) and later as a scramjet has to be developed.

Conclusion-

The recent success full testing of scramjet engine demonstrates ISRO’s technological capability. Scramjet engine will play major role in ISRO’s space mission, as it is smaller, lighter and faster. It will go a long way in redefining ISRO’s position as one of the leading space agencies in the world.


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