The US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has selected Australian aerospace company Hypersonix Launch Systems to deliver hypersonic test vehicles.
The new award is part of Hypersonic and High-Cadence Airborne Testing Capabilities (HyCAT1) programme.
The DIU is executing this programme in collaboration with the US Air Force (USAF) and the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering (USD R&E).
Hypersonix has been selected for this programme after a competitive process, in which a total of 63 international aerospace companies participated to offer their solutions for the DIU’s HyCAT project.
The first hypersonics solicitation under this programme was issued by DIU and USD R&E’s Director of Hypersonics and the Test Resource Management Center in September last year.
In response, Hypersonix proposed its ‘DART Additive Engineering (AE)’ vehicle, which is expected to have a modular payload bay of nearly 20lb.
This vehicle will leverage 3D-printing technology and will be powered by a hydrogen-fuelled SPARTAN scramjet engine that will allow the vehicle to fly with non-ballistic flight patterns, with speeds ranging between Mach 5 to 7 for up to 1,000km.
The company said that the DIU has specifically requested for a hypersonic vehicle that can operate in a ‘representative environment’ with at least three-minute flight duration and ‘near-constant’ flight conditions.
Hypersonix Launch Systems managing director David Waterhouse said: “Our vehicles are capable of non-ballistic flight patterns to at least Mach 7, which exceeds the HyCAT1 specification.”
DART AE is anticipated to start operating from early next year.
HyCAT programme involves development of a suite of low-cost, high-cadence, modern and dual-use airborne testing platforms (vehicles) that can be used for providing data to expedite the evaluation of various concepts, technologies, systems as well as mission sets.
DIU space portfolio programme manager major Ryan Weed said: “Commercial companies are forging ahead towards reusable and low-cost test vehicles. The HyCAT project represents a paradigm shift in viewing the hypersonic realm as a place for aircraft, not just missiles and weapons.”