DARPA Completes Key Milestone on Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapons Program

Artist’s illustration of hypersonic missile. (Credit: DARPA)

Risk reduction milestone paves way for airborne tests this year

ARLINGTON, Va. (DARPA PR) — DARPA and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) today announced successful completion of captive carry tests of two variants of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) and are ready to proceed to first free-flight testing within the calendar year. The joint Agency and Service effort seeks to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile.


The Year in Suborbital Launches

The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)
The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Although orbital launch vehicles get all the glory (and infamy when they fail), 2016 was also a busy year for the far less glamorous suborbital launch sector. There were 19 suborbital launches at various sites around the world, and two more sounding rocket launches of note where the payload didn’t go above 100 km.

Australian Team Aims to Launch Mach 8 Scramjet in Norway

Brad Sharp, Dr Melrose Brown and Dr Michael Creagh from the SCRAMSPACE team work to finalise the payload for the upcoming launch. (Credit: Donald Cook)
Brad Sharp, Dr Melrose Brown and Dr Michael Creagh from the SCRAMSPACE team work to finalise the payload for the upcoming launch. (Credit: Donald Cook)

BRISBANE, Australia (UQ PR) — The six-day window to launch Australia’s SCRAMSPACE hypersonic scramjet began on Sunday, meaning the research flight could launch any day in the week following.

[Editor’s Note: According to the project’s Twitter feed, the flight was canceled for Tuesday due to weather. Another attempt will be made on Wednesday.]

The data-collecting research project led by The University of Queensland is scheduled to launch between September 15 and 21, subject to weather and testing.

SCRAMSPACE Director and Chair for Hypersonics at UQ Professor Russell Boyce said the team was ready and eager to launch the $14 million research project, which is capable of reaching speeds of 8600km/h.


HIFiRE Scamjet Prepped for Test Flight

By John Hamilton

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — Members from Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme division, White Sands Detachment, are working together to ready the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) Flight 2 research vehicle for launch later this year.

Preparations to fly a new high tech engine are currently underway at White Sands Missile Range.


Germans Test Australian SCRAMSPACE Hypersonic Vehicle

Can new types of engine make spaceflight easier and more economical? This question is being investigated by researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) using one of Europe’s leading hypersonic wind tunnels, located in Göttingen. The engine is being tested for an Australian Scramjet-based Access-to-Space Systems (SCRAMSPACE) experimental spacecraft – SCRAMSPACE I – scheduled for launch in 2013.


UVA to Unveil Scramjet Engine Prototype on Monday

UVA PR — Aerospace engineering researchers and students at the University of Virginia are helping to create a hypersonic “scramjet” engine that can travel at five times the speed of sound – or 3,700 mph. That’s about twice the speed of a bullet, and it’s technology that could one day allow a plane to fly from New York to Los Angeles in just 40 minutes.


NASA Studies Railway Scramjet Mag Lev Booster Contraptions

Railway to the Sky? NASA Ponders New Launch System

Imagine this: A wedge-shaped aircraft attached to a supersonic jet engine is hurtling along an electrified track, carrying a pod or spacecraft destined for orbit. Sound farfetched? It may not be.

A team of engineers from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and some of the agency’s other field centers are looking into this and other novel launch systems based on cutting-edge technologies.


Lockheed Rocket Motor Helped X-51 Hit Mach 5

X-51 Waverider


Lockheed Martin announced today that its Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) rocket motor successfully boosted the experimental X-51A WaveRider beyond Mach 4.5, the speed at which a scramjet will start and begin to provide thrust. The successful boost helped the X-51 hypersonic scramjet engine to accelerate to a historic Mach 5, a first for the vehicle.


Hypersonic Future: Superfast Weapons and Access to Space

X-51A Waverider

Air Force Sees Hypersonic Weapons and Spaceships in Future

A recent United States Air Force scramjet test has hinted at a future where hypersonic vehicles streak through the sky at many times the speed of sound around the world, and perhaps even open up access to space.

The experimental X-51A Waverider used a rocket booster and an air-breathing scramjet to reach a speed of Mach 5 and achieve the longest hypersonic flight ever powered by such an engine on May 26. That technology might not only deliver cargo quickly to different parts of the globe, but could also transform the space industry and spawn true space planes that take off and land from the same runway.

The wealth of possibilities offered by aerospace vehicles that can ride their own shockwaves likely explains why the project has drawn support from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), NASA, and the U.S. Navy.

“We could have in the future such things as hypersonic weapons that fly 600 nautical miles in 10 minutes,” said Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, during a June 1 teleconference.

Read the full story.

Kiwis Working on Hypersonic Materials With NASA, U.S. Air Force

NZ engineers work on space plane
The Press

Canterbury University’s role in international space exploration has been boosted by three academics helping to develop the next generation of space vehicles.

Mechanical engineering department associate professor Susan Krumdieck will be a lead investigator working on high-temperature materials for the next hypersonic vehicle, which will travel at up to 15 times the speed of sound and replace the space shuttle.


X-51A Waverider Hypersonic Flight Delayed

X-51 Waverider

(AFNS) The scheduled May 25 launch of the X-51A Waverider hypersonic flight test vehicle has been postponed 24 hours. The delay was due to the presence of a freighter transiting in a section of the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range several hundred miles off the California coast.


U.S. Military Sees X-51 as the Wave(rider) of the Future

X-51 Waverider

Over at Spaceflight Now, Craig Covault has a detailed story about the military’s X-51 hypersonic vehicle, which is set to take its first test flight next week. The test is a precursor to what officials hope will be an entirely new way to send payloads into space:

The first hypersonic X-51 scramjet powered long-duration flights to give the Pentagon a new “Prompt Global Strike” capability that ties atmospheric and space propulsion will begin as early as May 25 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The X-vehicle scramjet flight tests are also a key step for the use of air breathing propulsion to launch into space.


Australians to Lead International Consortium on Mach 8 Scramjet

Feb. 27, 2010

The University of Queensland will lead a $14 million international consortium to help develop scramjet-based access-to-space systems, flying an autonomous scramjet vehicle at eight times the speed of sound – Mach 8, or 8600 km/h.

In parallel, scramjet concepts will be tested at even greater speeds, up to Mach 14, in UQ’s world class hypersonic ground-test facilities.


HiFIRE Scramjet Project Progressing at Woomera

HiFire scramjet vehicle
HiFire scramjet vehicle

New materials designed to deal with hypersonic and supersonic hot stuff

Previous Australian experimental flight tests of scramjets, a type of very fast jet engine, have not lasted longer than five seconds….

However, further experimental tests are planned in 2011 through to 2013 in the HiFIRE series at Woomera using free-flying engines and eventually, a whole free-flying vehicle which will generate enough thrust to fly for a minute.