SKY RAMP TECHNOLOGY
The value of modern supersonic test tracks are well known. However, they cannot safely launch test vehicles. An inclined test track could not only test things on the ground, but launch them at moderate to supersonic speeds. NASA currently uses large aircraft to drop test vehicles, something a jet powered sled on an inclined test track can perform at a fraction of the cost.
An excellent example are current NASA tests of a modern scramjet engine in the X-43 Hypersoar aircraft, with hopes of achieving a top speed of Mach 7-10. (see diagram below, click for more NASA X-43A) They currently use an expensive and awkward method of igniting the X-43ís scramjet with an assisted launch from a large aircraft and a disposable rocket booster. On June 2, 2001, an X-43 was lost during testing after its Pegasus booster rocket veered off course.
An inclined track can launch much larger X-43 type scramjet aircraft at a far lower cost. Millions of dollars have been spent to construct miles-long high-speed test tracks just for ground tests. Sky Ramps will have many uses; serving as a high speed test track that can also launch aircraft is yet another.
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