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HyShot is a research project of The University of Queensland, Australia Centre for Hypersonics, to demonstrate the possibility of supersonic combustion under flight conditions and compare the results of shock tunnel experiments.


The project has involved one launch of the scramjet designed by the British company QinetiQ [1], and the successful launch of one engine designed by the University of Queensland. Each combustion unit is launched on the nose of a Terrier-Orion Mk70 sounding rocket on a high ballistic trajectory, reaching altitudes of approximately 330 km. The rocket is rotated to face the ground, and the combustion unit ignited for a period of 6-10 seconds while falling between 35 km and 23 km at around Mach 7.6. The system is not designed to produce thrust.

  • The first HyShot flight was on 30 October 2001.
  • The first successful launch (Hyshot II) was of a University of Queensland scramjet on 30 July 2002. It is believed by many to be the first successful flight of a scramjet engine, although some dispute this and point primarily to earlier tests by Russian scientists.
  • A second successful flight (HyShot III) using a QinetiQ scramjet was achieved on 25 March 2006.[2] The later QinetiQ prototype is cylindrical with four stainless steel combustors around the outside. The aerodynamics of the vehicle is improved by this arrangement but it was expensive to manufacture.
  • The HyShot IV flight on 30 March 2006 launched successfully, and telemetry was received, however it is believed that the scramjet did not function as expected. Data analysis is required to confirm what occurred. [3]
  • HyCAUSE was launched on 15 June 2007. (The HyCAUSE experiment differed from the HyShot launches in that a Talos-Castor combination was used for launch and the target Mach number was 10.)

The carrier rocket for the HyShot experiments was composed of a RIM-2 Terrier first stage (6 second burn, 4000 km/h) and an Orion second stage (26 second burn, 8600 km/h, 56 km altitude). A fairing over the payload was then jettisoned. The package then coasted to an altitude of around 300 km. Cold gas nitrogen attitude control thrusters were used to re-orient the payload for atmospheric reentry. The experiments each lasted for some 5 seconds as the payload descended between approximately 35 and 23 kilometers altitude, when hydrogen fuel was fed to the scramjet. Telemetry reported results to receivers on the ground for later analysis. The payload landed about 400 km down range from the launch site, at which time its temperature was still expected to be about 300 degrees Celsius, which may be enough to cause a small brush fire and thereby make spotting and recovery easier even though a radio beacon was in the payload.

The team continue to work as part of the Australian Hypersonics Initiative, a joint program of The University of Queensland, the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales' Australian Defence Force Academy campus, the governments of Queensland and South Australia and the Australian Defence Department.

The Hyshot program spawned the HyCAUSE (Hypersonic Collaborative Australian/United States Experiment) program[4]: a collaborative effort between the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Australia's DSTO, also representing the research collaborators in the Australian Hypersonics Initiative (AHI)[5].

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