An unmanned supersonic jet has startled the world with a flight speed seven times more than that of sound (Mach 7). The us' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (nasa) successfully tested the x-43 a supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet), which flew at a speed of 7,700 kilometres per hour. The scramjet carried hydrogen fuel and scooped up oxygen from the air, making it a potentially effective vehicle.
But the real importance of this ground-to-space launch lies in its coming within six weeks of the Russian prototype test of a hypersonic manoeuvring vehicle in lower space. If controlled in lower-earth space, there is virtually no stopping the jet from its target, thus nullifying any air or missile defences along the way. This is what Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed when the country tested its vehicle. These inventions only bring the world closer to space warfare, ushering in a whole new arms race in this century.
On the bright side, the thought that a space plane would cover the distance between Europe and India within 30-odd minutes may not remain just a flight of fancy!
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.