The joint Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) HIFiRE hypersonic project achieved another milestone on March 22 with the successful completion of a second flight at more than Mach 5.
The flight was conducted at the Woomera Test Range in SA, and saw the small aircraft launched atop a sounding rocket to an altitude of more than 200km, before detaching and achieving the hypersonic speeds as it dived back through the atmosphere. The program supports Boeing’s X-51 ‘Waverider’ scramjet project and the Pentagon’s global ‘quick strike’ program.
“Today’s flight represents a significant scientific milestone, enabling scientists to collect fundamental data critical to the design and development of an engine capable of sustained hypersonic flight,” Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet, said in a statement. “The flight was the second in a series of up to 10 planned flight experiments under a joint research program between DSTO and the USAF.”
Scramjets have no moving parts, instead using a specially shaped ramp and intake system which is most efficient at speeds above Mach 3 and which compresses incoming air, before it is mixed with fuel and expelled out the back.