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Significance and capability of scramjet vehicle that DRDO tested

8th September, 2020 Security

Context: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully flight tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) – an unmanned scramjet vehicle with a capability to travel at six times the speed of sound.

Significance of the test:


  • It is a giant leap in indigenous defence technologies and a significant milestone towards a Sashakt Bharat and Atmanirbhar Bharat.
  • DRDO with this mission, has demonstrated capabilities for highly complex technology that will serve as the building block for NextGen Hypersonic vehicles in partnership with industry.
  • Though the system was tested for a very short duration, it has given scientists a large set of data points to work on for further development.
  • The indegenous development of the technology will also boost the development of the systems built with hypersonic vehicles at its core, including both offensive and defensive hypersonic cruise missile systems and also in the space sector.
  • Scientists believe that many more rounds of tests will have to be done to achieve the level of technology with countries like the US, Russia and China.

The hypersonic vehicle and its scramjet engine

  • The scramjets are a variant of a category of jet engines called the air breathing engines.
  • The ability of engines to handle airflows of speeds in multiples of speed of sound, gives it a capability of operating at those speeds.
  • Hypersonic speeds are those, which are five times or more than the speed of sound.
  • The unit tested by the DRDO can achieve upto six times the speed of sound or Mach 6, which is well over 7000 kilometers per hour or around two kilometers per second.
  • “The critical events like fuel injection and auto ignition of scramjet demonstrated technological maturity. The scramjet engine performed in a text book manner.
  • While the technology helps achieve hypersonic speeds, it comes with its set of disadvantages, and the obvious one being its very high cost and high thrust-to-weight ratio.

Development of the technology

  • The DRDO started on the development of the engine in early 2010s and has conducted a test of this system in June 2019.
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has also worked on the development of the technology and has successfully tested a system in 2016.
  • At the hypersonic speeds, the system has to handle temperatures to the range of 2500 degrees celsius as well as the air speed, and thus development of the material is one of the main challenges.