AFRL’s X-60A programme achieves key developmental milestone

16 January 2020 (Last Updated January 17th, 2020 13:43)

The US Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) X-60A hypersonic flight research vehicle has completed integrated vehicle propulsion system verification ground testing.

AFRL’s X-60A programme achieves key developmental milestone
An X-60A air-launched rocket during a hot-fire test at Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville. Credit: USAF.

The US Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) X-60A hypersonic flight research vehicle has completed integrated vehicle propulsion system verification ground testing.

Development of the air-launched rocket is currently in progress with Generation Orbit Launch Services as part of an AFRL Small Business Innovation Research contract.

X-60A is a single-stage liquid rocket that uses liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. It can be launched from a modified business jet carrier aircraft.

Hypersonic technologies such as airbreathing propulsion, advanced materials and hypersonic vehicle subsystems can be tested using X-60A.

AFRL X-60A programme manager Barry Hellman said: “This test series was a critical step in reducing risk and gathering necessary system integration data in preparation for our upcoming flight tests.

“When we go to flight later this year, we hope to demonstrate the capability of the X-60A to provide affordable access to hypersonic flight conditions, which will position AFRL to deliver an innovative test capability for the airforce and other DoD organisations.”

The main objective of the X-60A programme is to allow the US Air Force to mature technologies under hypersonic flight conditions.

The key developmental testing milestone included cold-flow and hot-fire testing with the Hadley liquid rocket engine. It has been developed by Ursa Major Technologies.

Flight-like operational procedures were used for the testing of hardware.

Testing also covered full-duration burns, engine gimbaling for thrust vector control, and system throttling.

The forthcoming flight tests are to be conducted in Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville, Florida, US.