Military

China tests hypersonic missile with multi-mode engine

China tests hypersonic missile with multi-mode engine
Feitan-1 lifting off
Feitan-1 lifting off
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The Feitan-1 hypersonic test vehicle
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The Feitan-1 hypersonic test vehicle
Feitan-1 lifting off
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Feitan-1 lifting off

China is reminding the world that it is very much in the race to deploy hypersonic missiles, with a team at the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics of Northwestern Polytechnical University successfully launching the Feitian-1, a Rocket-Based Combined Cycle (RBCC)-propelled vehicle, in northwestern China.

Even though it is one of the top three contenders in the race to develop a practical hypersonic weapons system, getting solid data about China's hypersonic program is frustratingly difficult. Like Russia, but more so, China tends to keep its cards very close to its chest and what little information is released comes through the country's state-controlled media, or is couched in claims such as that a test was for an orbital spaceplane.

What is particularly interesting about the launch of Feitian-1 is that it uses an RBCC engine to propel it to speeds in excess of Mach 5. An RBCC engine is a combination of an air-breathing ramjet, air-breathing scramjet, and ducted rocket. As the vehicle accelerates, the engine transfers from one mode to the next, allowing it to cope with air hitting the intake at greater and greater speed, and then becoming a pure rocket at top speed and very high altitudes.

The Feitan-1 hypersonic test vehicle
The Feitan-1 hypersonic test vehicle

Such an engine has a number of advantages, chief of which is that it doesn't have to carry as much oxidizer as a pure rocket because it can harvest oxygen from the air like a conventional jet engine. This allows it to carry more fuel or a larger payload. In addition, the Feitian-1 can burn kerosene-based aviation fuel.

According to the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Northwestern Polytechnical University, such an RBCC engine is the first in a hypersonic flight vehicle. It says the July 2 ground-launched flight test made a smooth transition from one mode to the next and carried out the expected thermal throat adjustment and ultra-wide flight envelope combustion.

Source: Northwestern Polytechnical University

6 comments
6 comments
TedTheJackal
ICBMs operate well beyond the hypersonic threshold, so hypersonic weapons have in fact been operational since the sixties. And if you think Russia and China are secretive do you think the Americans publish blueprints of their missile systems? And how do you know the test was for a missile and not a space plane? Do you have an unnamed source, or are you reporting your own speculation?
drzarkov99
For all they hype about hypersonics (pun intended), maneuverable reentry vehicles have been around for a long time. One of the things Reagan did in the early 1980s that got the Soviets to pull back their medium range ballistic missiles from threatening Europe was to deploy the Pershing II, that had a maneuverable reentry vehicle without any propulsion needed. Hypersonic missiles will be short range, more likely to be antiship weapons, as the added weight of propulsion limits the size of the warhead.
WB
TED I know anyone can just comment and pretend they know what they are talking about... fact is USA is way behind the hypersonic game. Total incompetence
TedTheJackal
WB: I'm an aerospace engineer, BSc University of Florida, and have forgotten more about aerodynamics than you'll ever know, and I haven't forgotten much. Do you have any relevant comments to make or are you just going to trash talk your betters? You sound like an MIC troll.
soundnado
I bet that rocket is made in China. 😋
claudio
hypersonic missiles for... what else other than a war we hope will never come, or else it'd be the last one?