Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop enabling technologies for an advanced hypersonic defence interceptor, Glide Breaker.

Under the contract, which is worth up to $19.6m, Aerojet will develop propulsion technology for the Glide Breaker programme.

The company will apply its experience in the design, development and production of the technology.

Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president Eileen Drake said: “Advancing hypersonic technology is a national security imperative.

“Our team is proud to apply our decades of experience developing hypersonic and missile propulsion technologies to the Glide Breaker programme.”

DARPA noted that the programme intends to advance the US’ means to counter hypersonic vehicles.

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This effort is aimed at developing and demonstrating a technology that plays a key role in enabling an advanced interceptor that can engage manoeuvring hypersonic threats in the upper atmosphere.

Aerojet Rocketdyne supplies solid-fuelled, as well as air-breathing, propulsion systems for hypersonic flight.

For the joint Air Force-DARPA-NASA X-51A WaveRider, the company provided both types of systems.

WaveRider concluded the first practical hypersonic flight of a hydrocarbon-fuelled and cooled scramjet-powered vehicle.

Recently, Aerojet completed a series of subscale propulsion-system test firings as part of the agency’s  Operational Fires (OpFires) programme to develop a ground-launched hypersonic missile for tactical use.

Last month, DARPA awarded a $13m contract to Northrop Grumman for the Glide Breaker programme, which started in 2018 to develop and demonstrate technologies to enable defence against hypersonic systems.

In October last year, DARPA awarded a Pit Boss contract to SEAKR Engineering to support the Blackjack Proliferated Low Earth Orbit Demonstration Programme.