Sunday, November 1, 2009

IISc working towards recoverable hypersonic missile

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) along with Indian defence agencies are developing technology to build recoverable

hypersonic missiles which will be half the size of the current missiles. This missile will have the potential of hitting a target over 5,000 km away at more than five times the speed of sound (Mach5) and can also be used to launch satellites at low cost, a top scientist working on the project told ET. No time frame has been announced as yet on when the missile work will be completed. This is of special significance as institutions like the Nasa is experimenting on unmanned projects where they will use hypersonic flights to conduct space exploration.
Missiles which fly at Mach 3-4 (three to four times the speed of sound) belong to the high supersonic class, while hypersonic missiles can fly at more than Mach 5. India’s longest-range missile, Agni III, is capable of hitting targets 3,500 km away and the forthcoming Agni V which has a range of about 5,000-6,000 km is expected to be test-fired in 2010.
“The missile will be much smaller than the current ones. It will be more like an aircraft which can come back to its base after dropping the weapon and need not be huge like the Chinese Dongfeng intercontinental ballistic missile,” a scientist who did not wish to be quoted said. “This technology is not yet available in any other country and it will help better access to space, reconnaissance-strike and global reach.”
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Friday admitted that they were developing this technology, but work was still at its preliminary stage. IISc is working on some parts of this intercontinental ballistic missile which will be made of materials like composites and Titanium. This will prevent it from being detected by enemy radars and observation systems. It is this innovation which has attracted the interest of several US aviation sector majors.

Since it is important to keep the missile cool, it will work on the scram-jet technology where combustion of fuel takes place in a chamber in the missile under Mach 5 flight conditions, which is different from the current system of collecting the air from the atmosphere during the flight to burn the rocket fuel inside the combustion chamber.
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a United Technologies Corp company is also working on flight testing hypersonic hydrocarbon-fuelled and cooled scramjet engine working on Mach 5 flight conditions. (A scramjet consists of a constricted tube through which air is compressed and it has a nozzle through which the exhaust jet leaves at higher speed than the inlet air).
The scientist said that they will also use a technology developed by IISc on this missile that has the potential to increase the range of missiles and satellite launch vehicles by at least 40%. The enhanced range is made possible by adding a special-purpose coating of chromium metal to the blunt nose cone of missiles and launch vehicles.
As reported by ET earlier, objects such as missiles fly at hypersonic velocities which are more than five times the speed of sound and encounter atmospheric drag because of friction. The chromium coating works by building temporary heat and pushing the stagnating gas away to create an easier path.
The scientist also said that various Indian defence agencies and the US Airforce have shown interest in this special coating technology which evaporates once the object has re-entered the atmosphere and additional energy is not required to reduce drag.

No comments: