Faculty members from the University of Maryland teamed with Astrox Corp., College Park, Md., to develop the combustor design.
Astrox President Ajay Kothari says the engine is shaped like a funnel, with air entering through a circular opening. The design, the company says, develops more thrust and less heat than a rectangular scramjet engine. Kothari and his team designed an injector resembling a small aerodynamic wing. Fuel is injected just at the wake where the air, which is moving at supersonic speeds, crosses the injector.
Researchers have tested the design at Mach 2 in the university's supersonic wind tunnel. Kothari plans to test the technology in a small model space plane. "Hypersonic space planes could revolutionize the transportation industry, much like jet planes did for subsonic commercial aviation 50 years ago," Kothari says.