The key advantage of a TEA based system over currently used single-function engine start techniques is that it provides multi-faceted benefits such as intense energy release, readily ignitable ethane gas, atomization of the fuel through effervescence, and pyrophoricity for ignition. As such, it likely has utility to assist in the high altitude re-light of turbojets with minimal modifications. If developed for such an approach, the TEA based system would be capable of providing engine start functionality for both the turbojet and scramjet in a turbine-based combined-cycle vehicle, significantly reducing overall system complexity. Companies such as Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne that develop both turbojets and scramjets would find such a capable and simplifying system to be of great benefit in meeting the system requirements of a combined-cycle hypersonic vehicle. The DoD is interested in developing these types of vehicles to gain a hypersonic strike capability to stay ahead of competing foreign entities.
A TEA based scramjet cold start system is expected to have significant mass and volume savings compared to traditional scramjet cold start techniques such as silane and ethylene when compared on an equivalence ratio basis. These mass and volume savings translate directly into additional capability and can alleviate some of the system packaging requirements of future hypersonic vehicle systems. In addition, the potential low Mach capability of a TEA based system helps extend the utility of scramjet engines proposed for turbine-based combined cycle hypersonic vehicles to lower Mach numbers, providing flexibility in selecting high-speed turbines capable of generating the required Mach number for scramjet takeover. NASA is interested in these types of vehicles as potential solutions for cheaper, reusable, more effective access to space.