THE head of the three-year, $14 million Scramjet project from the University of Queensland that ended in disaster has insisted the project was an "amazing success".
The Scramjet, capable of reaching speeds of 8,600km/h, was supposed to soar into space powered by a two-stage rocket, reaching an altitude of 320km before hurtling back down.
Instead, the 1.8 metre Scramjet hurtled back to the ocean far earlier than planned, leaving researchers without valuable data they had hoped would offer insight into whether the technology could be used for future air and space travel.
The Andoya Rocket Range released a statement blaming "motor problems" in the rocket carrying the "payload" Scramjet, ruling out any fault with UQ's technology.
SCRAMSPACE director Professor Russell Boyce, whose team spent two weeks in Norway preparing for the launch, described the team's "disbelief" at seeing the Scramjet splash down.
"Disappointment and dismay, for myself and many of the team and others around me, quickly turned to disbelief. What had been one chaotic smoke trail turned into two - the upper stage motor was now firing at the same time.
"One insane minute later, the 150kg scramjet payload dove at 700km per hour into the water a few kilometres from the launch range.
"But was it a failure? Absolutely not. Despite the loss of precious scientific data, the project and flight experiment had been an amazing success."
"Our experience was an unforgettable example of the reality that if something is hard to do, when you are pushing the boundaries in pursuit of new knowledge and innovation, then there is a real risk of something going dramatically wrong," he said.
"This is when the lessons learnt and experience gained are the most valuable."