John Sparks, director of engineering and technology programs at Aerojet Corp., recently presented a check for $50,000 in support of the Hy-V Scramjet launch student design team to Virginia Tech's mechanical engineering and aerospace and ocean engineering departments in the College of Engineering.

Sparks presented the check to Ken Ball, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering; Joseph Schetz, the Fred D. Durham Endowed Chair of the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering; Walter O’Brien, the J. Bernard Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering, all advisers on the student project.

This is the third consecutive year that Sacramento-based Aerojet has supported the Hy-V scramjet launch project. The team’s goal is to design and build a scramjet propulsion engine that can be tested at Mach 5 and 90,000 feet for a 20-second flight. A scramjet is an air-breathing propulsion engine that is similar to a ramjet, but has supersonic internal flow and combustion.

NASA will provide a rocket booster for the test, for which data will be collected on internal pressures and temperatures, fuel flow rate, performance of the igniter, fuel injector and mixer and flameholder. The performance of the engine casing and insulation also will be studied.

The 2007-08 mechanical engineering design team developed an analysis for the flow within the Scramjet, examined materials for construction of the combustor, and did testing of the materials. The program this year has progressed to a plan and schedule for the work leading to the launch test.

Tran plans to test a combustor flowpath at the University of Virginia direct-connect wind tunnel by the end of this year. She and the Hy-V students will design a flight-capable combustor and nozzle for test in a free jet wind tunnel next year. Bitzer is serving as systems design coordinator and chief engineer for the project. The scramjet inlet will be designed and supplied by other team members.

Two previous Virginia Tech design teams worked on the Scramjet project in cooperation with students from the University of Virginia. Support has been received from the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, NASA, and Aerojet.

Sparks, of Warrenton, Va., is a three-time graduate of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, having received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees from the mechanical engineering department, in 1974, 1976, and 1981, respectively. Sparks is a member of the College of Engineering Advisory Board, chairing the Legislative Liaison Committee, and he received the 2008 Distinguished Service Award from the college.