- Parabolic Arc
- November 29, 2023
DARPA’s Vulcan Engine Aims for Mach 6+
DARPAâ€™s Hypersonic Vulcan Engine Meld
Defense Industry Daily
It might not be a Vulcan mind-meld, but itâ€™s pretty close. The Department of Defenseâ€™s technology brain trust, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has given 4 contractors the go-ahead to develop the advanced Vulcan combination engine system for hypersonic flight. The 8-month first phase features awards to: Alliant TechSystems, General Electric, Rolls Royce, and United Technologies.
The Vulcan engine will integrate a traditional jet turbine engine that performs well at low speeds, with a constant volume combustion (CVC) engine that performs well at higher speeds. The combination will help the vehicles go from standing starts to Mach 4 or so, where hypersonic engines can take over. DARPAâ€™s ultimate goal is to design, build, and fly Mach 6+ re-usable, air-breathing, turbine-based hypersonic vehicles….
Contractors will use an in-production turbine engine that is capable of operating at or above Mach 2, such as United Technologiesâ€™ subsidiary Pratt & Whitneyâ€™s F100-229 (in F-16/F-15 fighters) and F119 (F-22A) engines, and GEâ€™s F110-129 (F-16/F-15) and F414 (F/A-18E/F, JAS-39NG) engines. The hope is that picking a proven high-Mach conventional engine will save a lot of money and time, as opposed to past efforts that have tried to develop an entirely new conventional engine for use in hypersonic mixed-cycle systems….
The idea is to use conventional jet engines for takeoff, use the combined engines to get up to speed, then switch to CVC/scramjet-only power during hypersonic flight above Mach 4. At those speeds, the conventional turbine will need to be â€œcocooned,â€ in order to protect its components from the high heat and pressures generated by hypersonic speeds in the atmosphere. Full low-altitude spaceflight would add an additional set of complications, including the need for cryogenic fuels, for materials that can withstand a broader range of extreme environments during flight and re-entry, and for engines with even broader performance ranges.
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