Kelly Cahill Encounter.
If successful it would be the first atmospheric test of a supersonic combustion ramjet, also known as a scramjet (Super-sonic Combustion Ramjet).
It is a machine capable of reaching more than eight times faster than sound, or 2.6km a second. The feat would compare with breaking the sound barrier in 1947.
NASA failed when it tested a scramjet in June 2001.A more recent test by NASA saw a scramjet travel under its own power for a split second which was a huge leap forward. The Australian tests were being carried out at a fraction of the cost of NASA's.
The scramjet would lead to cheaper satellite launches and faster flights on domestic airlines. For example, the journey from Adelaide to London would be cut to just two hours.
The Hyshot project is being undertaken by the University of Queensland's hypersonics department. "We are very busy preparing at the moment," chief engineer Dr. Hans Alesi said. "But when we have a spare moment to reflect, there is a real feeling that we are on the verge of history," he said.
The scramjet, dreamed up in the 1950's is a simple machine that burns only oxygen from the air and hydrogen carried on board. The jet's engine converts oxygen to fuel. The only bi-product of the scram jet is water.
The scramjet is also set to revolutionize the launch of small space 'pay-loads'.
The test was aimed at launching the scramjet with another rocket which at an optimum altitude (about 35km) and speed would able the scramjets engines to kick in. The scramjet would then be shot toward the earth at astonishing velocity.
The Terrier Orion rocket that carried the revolutionary engine into space experienced flight problems before the experiment was carried out.
During its fall to earth the scramjet engine was supposed to ignite as air rushing into the engine at speeds faster than sound combusted hydrogen fuel.
The first stage rocket fell 2km down the range and the second stage-boost rocket disappeared into the desert. Telemetry data and other information allowed project leader Dr Allan Paull to calculate the likely impact area.
It is believed the scramjet payload fitted on the rocket survived the journey until the return to earth.
A second test launch had been planned for next week, but will not go ahead until the cause of the flight problem has been identified and fixed.