China’s success in flying a scramjet-powered hypersonic aircraft, trailing the U.S. by no more than a few years, reveals that its engineers have overcome severe cooling problems first mentioned five years ago. The successful test, announced in October, followed the January 2014 flight of a Chinese hypersonic glider.
The China Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics says the engine of the aircraft, which must have been unmanned and probably quite small, is the world’s first kerosene-burning scramjet with regenerative cooling. This is at odds with the Boeing X-51A WaveRider, in which fuel cooled the engine while being heated to improve combustion, flown in the U.S in 2010 and again in 2013.
The society announced the Chinese success to recognize the achievements of the project leader, Wang Zhenguo. A professor at the National University of Defense Technology, Wang led the research and development team for more than 20 years, from concept to planning and system integration. This involved “development and production in a nationally important project for a certain type of hypersonic aircraft,” the society says. Wang, referred to as the chief designer, was also in charge of flight testing.
As a result, China has become only the second country, behind the U.S., to independently fly such an aircraft, the society says. Chinese media quoted the society as making these statements in a report on its award to Wang.