China will test a prototype combined-cycle hypersonic engine later this year that they hope will pave the way for the first demonstration flight of a full-scale propulsion system by 2025. If successful, the engine could be the first of its type in the world to power a hypersonic vehicle or the first stage of a two-stage-to-orbit spaceplane. Combined-cycle systems have long been studied as a potential means to access to space and long-range hypersonic vehicles.
Chinese Academy of Sciences professor Lihong Chen said: "We also developed a low cost near-space science and technology flight test platform. The first flight test was successfully carried out, and key issues of the scramjet were demonstrated at Mach 3.5-7 and at altitudes of 15-30 km [9-18 mi.]." Offering no further details, Chen says the flight test was targeted at fundamental research under a program that she likened to the Australian-U.S. Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) effort.