Context: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recently 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, making India the fourth country in the world after the US, China and Russia to develop such technology.
- This successful test will pave the way for missiles that can travel at six times the speed of sound.
- Apart from being used as a vehicle for hypersonic and long-range cruise missiles, the HSTDV is a dual-use technology that will have multiple civilian applications, including the launch of small satellites at low cost.
- The test was conducted using the Agni missile.
- A solid rocket motor of Agni missile was used to take to an altitude of 30 kilometers where the cruise vehicle separated from the launch vehicle and the air intake opened as planned.
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 the speed of sound gives it the capability of operating at those speeds.
- Hypersonic speeds are those which are five times or more than the speed of sound (Mach 5 or more).
Hypersonic nuclear missiles
- Hypersonic missiles travel at speeds faster than 3,800 miles per hour or 6,115 km per hour, much faster than other ballistic and cruise missiles.
- They can deliver conventional or nuclear payloads within minutes.
- They are highly manoeuvrable and do not follow a predictable arc as they travel.
- They are said to combine the speed of ballistic missiles with the manoeuvring capabilities of cruise missiles.
- The speed makes them hard to track compared to traditional missile tech.
- In March this year, the United States announced it had successfully tested an unarmed prototype of a hypersonic missile.