Entering The Hypersonic Tech Club

HSDTV Cruise Vehicle. DRDO - Aviatorsbuzz
Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Source: DRDO

After getting its weight management right, a lighter Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), was successfully flight tested by India on Monday.

With a range of uses, including missiles of the future for air defence, surveillance and reconnaissance besides a low-cost satellite launch vehicle, the HSDTV is powered by an indigenously developed scram jet propulsion system. The historic mission ensured a giant leap in use of indigenous defence technologies and will help achieving a significant milestone.

At 11.03 a.m. the HSTDV programme was conducted by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from the Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Launch Complex at Wheeler Island over the Bay of Bengal, off the Odisha coast.

Launched using a proven solid rocket motor, the HSDTV took it to an altitude of 30 kilometres (km), where the aerodynamic heat shields were separated at hypersonic Mach number. The cruise vehicle separated from the launch vehicle and the air intake opened as planned.

“The hypersonic combustion sustained and the cruise vehicle continued on its desired flight path at a velocity of six times the speed of sound i.e., nearly 02 km/second for more than 20 seconds. The critical events like fuel injection and auto ignition of scramjet demonstrated technological maturity. The scramjet engine performed in a text book manner,” a DRDO statement read.

Hypersonic - Aviatorsbuzz
HSDTV Cruise Vehicle. Source: DRDO

The parameters of launch and cruise vehicle, including scramjet engine were monitored by multiple tracking radars, electro-optical systems and Telemetry Stations. DRDO said the scram jet engine worked at high dynamic pressure and at very high temperature. A Ship was also deployed in the Bay of Bengal to monitor the performance during the cruise phase of hypersonic vehicle. All the performance parameters have indicated a resounding success of the mission, DRDO said.

The HSTDV, in the making for over a decade and whose maiden test of technology was in June 2019 was shadowed with reports about the HSTDV’s weight issues that resulted in Agni-I ballistic carrier vehicle being unable to receive the intended altitude boost. The DRDO had however declared that test too as successful and recorded various parameters.

An unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft, the HSDTV is capable of hypersonic speed flights. It can cruise at a speed of Mach 6 and move up to an altitude of 32.5 km (20 miles) in 20 seconds.

DRDO’s HSTDV programme has received assistance from Israel in wind-tunnel testing besides Cranfield University of the UK. Russia is India’s main defense-industrial partner.

HSTDV Cruise vehicle has been mounted on a solid rocket motor capable of taking it to the required altitude. Once achieved, the cruise vehicle will be ejected and will ignite the scram jet engine mid-air thus taking over to propel cruise vehicle for next 20 seconds at Mach 6.

This is dual-use technology project  will also have civilian applications and can be used for launching satellites at low cost or for deploying long-range cruise missiles in the future.

The scram-jet technology allows combustion of fuel to take place in a chamber in the missile at supersonic speeds. In the ram jet system, air it needs is collected from the atmosphere during the flight at subsonic speeds and the propellants burn in the combustion chamber.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who is on an ongoing trip to Moscow and Tehran congratulated DRDO. “I spoke to the scientists associated with the project and congratulated them on this great achievement. India is proud of them,” Singh said in a Twitter post.

The success of Monday’s flight test has strengthened Indian defence capability manifold. The use of hypersonic propulsion technology in the field of a long-range ballistic missile, high-speed reconnaissance drone, air defence interceptor missiles, etc are now possible. A hypersonic missile /drone can prove to be a hostile weapon in taking out airborne attack/with improved safety and quick response time, thus giving an edge to our defence forces.

India Joins Elite Club

The success of the HSTDV project strengthens India’s position among a group of nations who have already demonstrated this technology successfully. After the US, Russia, Japan, China and European Agency, India had been striving hard to be included in this club.


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Deputy Editor, AviatorsBuzz Aditya Anand in his nearly two decades of Journalism experience has tracked Aviation, Travel, and Hospitality closely and reported on it for major publications like The Hindu, Mumbai Mirror, and MIDDAY.


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