The Marshall Space Flight
Center and its industry partners have just announced the completion of
successful testing of
air-breathing rocket engines. These "athodyds" are basically supersonic
combustion ramjets, and have interested rocket engine designers since the
early 40's. (I first read about them in the Akron Beacon Journal in 1945.)
The rockets are placed in ducts that entrain air around the rocket exhaust
until the rocket reaches Mach 2. Then the combustion switches to the supersonic-combustion-ramjet
mode until the rocket attains a speed of Mach 10. Thereafter, the engines
resume operation as conventional rocket engines, driving the vehicle into
orbit. All of this lowers the weight of oxygen that must be carried on
board, and substantially lowers payload costs.
An artist's conception of such a vehicle is shown in the figure below.
Additional photos may
be found at http://www1.msfc.nasa.gov/NEWSROOM/news/photos/2000/photos00-108.htm
and an Air-breathing Rocket Engine Technology Summary: is available at:
Interviews and materials supporting this Media Update are available to media representatives by contacting June Malone of the Marshall Media Relations Department at (256) 544-0034. For more information on Marshall's space transportation activities, visit: http://www.highway2space.com
This news brief was taken from "Air
Breathing Rocket Tests Successful", ScienceDaily, April 23, 2000.