Xiamen University has now become the first university in the world to have built and flown a hypersonic aircraft in the heart of the Gobi – the Jiageng-1 and to have made its design public.
“We call [the design] the double waverider,” said Zhu Chengxiang, an assistant professor at the university’s School of Aerospace Engineering and a member of the project team.
The Jiageng-1 rides on two layers of shock waves one under its belly and the other in the air-inlet duct for its ramjet engine. It was a daring design. Managing one wave of hypersonic shocks was hard enough; using two added challenges.
But the new design has some intriguing advantages: it can make the transition from supersonic to hypersonic speeds more smoothly, create more lift and allow the aircraft to travel farther using less fuel.
The plane was powered by a winged rocket less than nine metres (29.5ft) tall that weighed more than three tonnes.It reached an altitude of more than 26km (16 miles).
Making some manoeuvres to “reproduce real flight conditions and conduct aerodynamic tests”, glided down and landed in the designated area with the aid of a parachute.
Xiamen University plans to build a hypersonic plane capable of reaching anywhere on the planet within two hours, although the team said that was a distant goal.