rocket lifts off
Chris Stacey  /  University of Queensland via AP
The Supersonic Combustion Ramjet (SCRAMJET) rocket lifts off successfully at the Woomera Rocket Range in the South Australian desert on Thursday.
updated 3/30/2006 4:33:35 PM ET 2006-03-30T21:33:35

Researchers in Australia's Outback launched a test flight Thursday of a supersonic jet designed to fly 10 times faster than conventional airplanes.

The test flight was conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland under commission from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, in the remote community of Woomera, about 300 miles north of the South Australian state capital, Adelaide.

The Supersonic Combustion Ramjet, or scramjet, was designed to travel at up to 5,000 mph, or 10 times the speed of conventional aircraft, the University of Queensland said.

"The rocket launch looked as expected. We had another clean liftoff," Professor Michael Smart said.

Thursday's flight was the second test flight in less than a week, and was intended to generate data about performance of the 220 pound scramjet engine with an advanced fuel injector developed by JAXA.

The data will be compared to results of ground tests performed in Japan, the university said in a statement.

It said it would make an announcement about the results of the flights in coming weeks.

The U.S. has already carried out a flight test with a scramjet engine, while the European Union, Japan, China, Russia and India are in different stages of testing their technologies.

Some observers say scramjet technologies could revolutionize air travel. Officials at the University of Queensland have said scramjet-powered passenger jets are still a long way off. But it might be possible to use a scramjet-powered plane within the next 10 years for limited purposes, such as delivering vital organs for urgent transplant operations.

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