The University of Queensland’s Scramspace hypersonic experiment ended in failure today as the unmanned spacecraft plummeted into the North Sea off the coast of Norway. After a successful launch atop a rocket from the Andøya Rocket Range at 3 p.m. CEDT, Scramspace failed to reach the required altitude to begin the hypersonic flight experiment.

Scramspace Director and University of Queensland Hypersonics Chair Professor Russell Boyce says that everyone is safe and that both rocket and payload landed in the sea. "The range has assured us that everyone is safe, no one has been hurt and no one is in danger, which is the most important thing. But the launch did not go as expected."

He went on to say that they were in contact with the craft during the entire flight. "The Scramspace payload, according to our data, was operating perfectly and performed extremely well before and during the launch, and we received telemetry data all the way into the water. Unfortunately the failed launch meant we could not carry out the experiment as planned."

Today's flight was intended to test a new hypersonic scramjet engine that could one day launch satellites into orbit or make possible passenger flights from London to Sydney in 2 hours. The plan was to use a rocket booster to launch Scramspace out of the atmosphere, after which it would dive straight down until it reached the speed of Mach 8, when it would fire its engine for 3 seconds before burning up. Instead, the experiment failed and the payload ended up in the sea.

The team is now working on what went wrong. "As with all launches, there is a risk that something will go wrong," says Boyce. "Unfortunately for the Scramspace team, something went wrong, and we are looking forward to hearing from the range on what happened."

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