Lockheed Martin is using turbine rocket combined cycle (TRCC) to build a mach 6-10 hypersonic plane. The TRCC is an engine that switches between turbofan, ramjet and scramjets for subsonic, supersonic, and hypersonic flight. The TRCC engine will be tested on a fighter-sized flight testbed by 2020. They would then try to develop a Mach 6, unmanned spyplane by 2030 that would perform the same role as the old SR-71 Blackbird. The hypersonic spyplane would enter highly contested and defended airspace at altitudes of 18 and 62 miles, using its speed to outrun enemy defenses. Hypersonic planes could fire hypersonic missiles. It would join the B-21 stealth bomber in the US air force future global strike arsenal.
Air-breathing hypersonic weapons and boost glide weapons are very difficult to engage, as both fly depressed trajectories that dispense with the high, arc-like, and most importantly predictable trajectories of traditional ballistic missiles.
Raytheon makes three types of ballistic missile interceptors, the SM-3 Block 1B midcourse interceptors that intercept incoming warheads at very high altitudes and the Standard SM-6 and Patriot PAC-3 terminal phase interceptors that destroy warheads as they near their targets. A successful hypersonic defense would likely use both types of interceptors to provide a layered defense system.
China is working to develop the hypersonic Teng Yun by 2030. It would also use the TRCC-engined hypersonic carrier aircraft to carry the second rocket-powered stage into near space. Both stages will be reusable; the hypersonic carrier airframe could also be used to hypersonic strike and spyplane roles.
The DSTO Teng Yun would have a combined weight of 100-150 tons. The first stage is a Mach 6 hypersonic ‘carrier’ aircraft, with TRCC engines that can fly to altitudes of 18 to 25 miles. Unlike the XS-1, the Teng Yun’s second stage is a reusable, 10-15-ton rocket-powered spaceplane capable of carrying either 2 tons of cargo or 5 passengers.
CASIC Vice President Liu Shiquan said that company has finished technology demonstration of key Teng Yun flight technology (like, you know the engine), and looks to have the two-stage space plane flying by 2030, as part of a $16 billion research effort.
China’s second innovation is CASC’s hypersonic spaceplane, which was announced in August 2016. Its engine and other critical technology are slated for completion by 2020, and a full-scale hypersonic spaceplane is expected to fly by 2030.
The turbo-aided rocket-augmented ram/scramjet engine (TRRE), which uses rocket augmentation in order to aid in the transition into the supersonic and hypersonic flight regimes, could be the world’s first combined cycle engine to fly in 2025, paving the way for hypersonic near space planes and single-stage space launchers.
Beijing Power Machinery Research Institute
CASC’s ambitions match the projected timeline for the rocket-assisted scramjet being built by the Beijing Power Machinery Research Institute for near space strike and reconnaissance, as well as dual- and single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicles. BPMRI will commence full-scale testing of the technology demonstrator in 2020, followed by the flight of a full scale afterward.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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