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Hypersonics – from Shock Waves to Scramjets - University of Queensland

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Important information

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

Important information

Requirements: 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...


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What I would highlight I am a first year Mechanical Engineering student and I found this course amazingly instructive and deep in terms of how complex jet engines are simplified with the main aim of giving learners the opportunity to comprehend the tools and techniques used in the development of Scramjet engine. The course is designed for students from any background with basic knowledge of physical sciences to be able to understand the complexity of such engines in a simplified yet detailed manner. Thumbs up to all the lecturers at the University of Queensland. Hoping to see more courses like this.

What could be improved Nothing bad.

Course taken: February 2016 | Recomendarías este centro? Sí.

What I would highlight Very good course. I loved it!

What could be improved No negative aspects.

Course taken: April 2016 | Recomendarías este centro? Sí.

What I would highlight Prior experience: Previous work with compressible flow and hypersonic flow field analysis in CFD. The course is very thorough in the way it introduces the concepts of hypersonic flight and scramjet vehicles step by step, building upon each section in order to achieve its objective: the project (simplified, of course) of a scramjet engine in all its components. This allows the student to grasp the behavior of the flow fields at each component of a scramjet and see the bigger picture of the entire engine. The course was definitely well structured, with no hesitation to develop pertinent equations and analyzing its components, showing well the physical implications of the mathematical formulation. I certainly recommend this course to anyone in the field and also to anyone who is interested in hypersonics, but without prior experience.

What could be improved N/A.

Course taken: May 2016 | Recomendarías este centro? Sí.

What you'll learn on the course

Aerospace propulsion

Course programme

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.

What you'll learn
  • 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

Additional information

David J. Mee David Mee is the Head of the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering at The University of Queensland. David has conducted research into hypersonics aerodynamics and has taught courses on fluid mechanics and aerospace propulsion for more than 20 years. In the 1990s he was a member of the UQ team that demonstrated for the first time that a scramjet engine could produce more thrust than drag.