Watch: The Real-Life ‘Darkstar’ Hypersonic Engine launches in Ramjet mode

Remember the scene in the movie Top Gun: MaverickCaptain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell pilots the SR-72 “Darkstar” hypersonic jet and hits the thrusters of the engines all the way forward. The engines ignite in a fiery explosion that propels Maverick to a speed of Mach 10.

The propulsion system centered around the SR-72 Darkstar (an aircraft that is only a concept) is a turbine-based combined cycle, which fuses a turboprop with a turbojet.

Although there is no aircraft in production with this insane propulsion system, ground test testing is underway.

Hypersonic aircraft developer Hermeus Corporation tweeted Thursday a video of one of these engines going from “turbojet” mode to crazy “ramjet” mode.

Hermos believes that the engine will power an aircraft in turbojet mode until March 3. The move to a turbojet system will push the plane through March 5th, they said.

“This is one of the most important technological achievements to make operational hypersonic flight a reality,” the company said. “Most hypersonic platforms use missiles – our approach allows us to use existing infrastructure at conventional airfields.”

Here’s more on how the engine travels:

At lower speeds, the Chimera is in turbojet mode—just like any jetliner. But as the temperature and velocity of the incoming air increased, jet engines reached their performance limit. This happens at about Mach 2.

The Chimera has a pre-cooler that lowers the temperature of the air coming into the turbojet engine. This allows Hermeus to squeeze a bit more performance out of a turbojet before moving on to a turbojet.

The company said it would begin flight tests in late 2023.

While Darkstar speeds are not yet achievable, supersonic passenger planes will be available towards the end of this decade, and hypersonic travel may be a story for the mid/late 2030s.