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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Zero To 4X the Speed Of Sound In A Flash

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) wants to build an engine that can go from zero to over four times the speed of sound as part of a new effort called VULCAN. Darpa says the VULCAN program will "design, build and ground test an engine capable of accelerating a full scale hypersonic vehicle from rest to Mach 4+."

Darpa and the Air Force are working on a number of hypersonic vehicle projects at the moment, ranging from the notional Blackswift aircraft to the X-51 Waverider. VULCAN, however, appears to take a different approach. "A key objective of the program is to integrate the turbine engine into the VULCAN engine with minimal modification to the turbine engine, to operate the turbine engine from rest to its upper Mach limit and to cocoon the turbine engine when it is not in use," the announcement says. "It desired that both the turbine and the CVC engines share a common inlet and nozzle."

So, what's the final goal? "It is envisioned that developing the VULCAN engine will enable full scale hypersonic cruise vehicles for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, strike or other critical national missions," says Darpa.