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Hypersonics – from Shock Waves to Scramjets

Understand flight at speeds greater than Mach 5 and discover how to analyse the performance of a scramjet.

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Starts Oct 22
Ends Dec 14
Estimated 4 weeks
4–8 hours per week
Self-paced
Progress at your own speed
Free
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About this course

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A flow is called hypersonic if the Mach number is greater than 5. This means that the flow speed is more than five times the speed of sound. In air at room temperature, the speed of sound is around 340 m/s, so a Mach 5 flow would have a flow speed of 1.7 km/s or just over 6,000 km/h. When a rocket launches a satellite into earth orbit, when a probe enters the atmosphere of another planet or when an aircraft is propelled by a supersonic combustion ramjet engine (a scramjet), hypersonic flows are encountered. Hypersonics - from Shock Waves to Scramjets introduces the basic concepts associated with flight at speeds greater than Mach 5 and takes students to the stage where they can analyse the performance of a scramjet engine that might be used in a future access-to-space system.

At a glance

  • Institution: UQx
  • Subject: Engineering
  • Level: Advanced
  • Prerequisites:

    This is an open course and anyone can choose to participate and learn about hypersonics. If, however, you want to delve into the field deeply, it is recommended that you have a good understanding of introductory concepts in Calculus, Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics. These will enable you to fully participate in the course, particularly the assessment tasks. The following online courses could be useful for you to access before you start to get yourself up to speed:

    • Differential Equations (MIT Opencourse): Unit 1: Basic DE's, Linear ODE's, Integrating Factors
    • Calculus with Applications (MIT Opencourse): Any calculus related math required for our course
    • Thermodynamics and Kinetics (MIT Opencourse): Look up lecture notes to cover basic introductory thermodynamics
  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English

What you'll learn

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  • When compressible flow occurs, how it behaves and when a flow becomes hypersonic
  • How to model 1D compressible flows
  • The nature of shock waves
  • The effects on a flow when the flow is hypersonic
  • How scramjet propulsion fits within context of aerospace propulsion
  • How to model the performance of a simple 2D scramjet engine

Section 1. What is Hypersonics?
This section provides an introduction to the course. What we mean by "hypersonic speeds" is discussed and examples of vehicles that travel at such speeds are given. Shock waves and scramjets are also introduced. The rocket equation is introduced to show why staging of launch vehicles is used. The scramjet engine arrangement used throughout the course is outlined.

Section 2. Isentropic Flow
The times when a flow can be considered to be "isentropic" are introduced. This leads on to the fundamentals of compressible flow and steady adiabatic flows. We use the flow in a scramjet nozzle to demonstrate the principles.

Section 3. Shock Waves
Normal and oblique shock waves form when objects travel at close to, or in excess of, the speed of sound. In this section, methods for modelling the flow across shock waves are presented and discussed. Results from experiments are used to show the influence of flow deflection angle on the shock wave formed at hypersonic speeds. We use the flow in a scramjet intake to demonstrate the principles.

Section 4. Combustors in Scramjets
Flows with friction, heat addition and stoichiometry are important considerations for scramjet combustors. In this section example problems are worked through to show the importance of friction and heat addition to fluid flow at different Mach numbers. Stoichiometric concepts are developed so that the use of different fuels can be modelled.

Section 5. Hypersonics
This section looks at hypersonic flight, flight corridors and vehicle design. Hypersonics facilities, such as reflected shock tunnels and expansion tubes, are described since these are used to test scientific hypotheses related to hypersonic flight.

Section 6. Scramjets
This section describes the state of scramjet technology as it exists today, examines the history of scramjets and then looks at future possibilities of scramjet technology. The overall thrust of an air breathing engine is calculated.

Section 7. Project
In the final section, students are required to analyse the flow through an engine and determine the Specific Impulse for their own scramjet design.

Learner testimonials

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"A fantastic platform to apply the basic concepts of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics in a real world situation to analyse the performance of a scramjet engine. The instructors had a deep knowledge of the subject and more importantly conveyed it brilliantly." - Aditya Manjeshwar

About the instructors

Who can take this course?

Unfortunately, learners residing in one or more of the following countries or regions will not be able to register for this course: Iran, Cuba and the Crimea region of Ukraine. While edX has sought licenses from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to offer our courses to learners in these countries and regions, the licenses we have received are not broad enough to allow us to offer this course in all locations. edX truly regrets that U.S. sanctions prevent us from offering all of our courses to everyone, no matter where they live.

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