Australian hypersonic propulsion startup Hypersonix will supply 20 DART-AE testbed hypersonic scramjet vehicles to US-based Kratos Defense and Security Solutions.
The 3m long craft, intended to reach speeds of up to Mach 7 (8600km/h), will be delivered after the first three prototypes have completed a demonstration and testing program with the Pentagon’s Hypersonic and High-Cadence Airborne Testing Capabilities program next year.
The space, missile and hypersonics firm Kratos has previously been involved in several Australian hypersonic tests with the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) and the University of Queensland (UQ).
The new Exclusive Teaming Agreement takes that cooperation to a whole new level.
“We are excited to begin manufacturing and supplying DART AE vehicles to the US market as soon as possible,” says Hypersonix CEO David Waterhouse. “We are proud that DART AE will fill an important role, including as a hypersonic test system and platform, collecting critical flight data related to multiple mission applications at hypersonic speeds.”
The Queensland-based company’s DART-AE is a small, single-use craft using a 3D printed air-breathing scramjet engine to propel its high-temperature alloy airframe past the hypersonic speed barrier – defined as Mach 5 (6200km/h).
At these speeds, vehicles must contend with extreme heat from the friction generated by the atmosphere and a whole new realm of aerodynamic physics.
In a statement, Kratos says it intends to integrate its Zeus solid-fuel rocket motors with the DART-AE system. Its Zeus 1 rocket motor was first successfully tested during a static ground run in June.
This booster will accelerate the DART-AE over Mach 5 in the first phase of flight. Once over that speed, the Hypersonix-developed scramjet engine will ignite to propel the drone autonomously along a programmed flight path.
Earlier this year, Hypersonix won a Pentagon tender to provide three testbed aircraft to demonstrate and evaluate hypersonic technologies and systems. Future, larger designs are intended to employ several hydrogen-fuelled SPARTAN scramjets to carry satellites into low-Earth orbit.
Kratos and Hypersonix intend to “significantly expand its presence in the United States and promote the sale of the DART AE system within the US Department of Defense (DoD) and potential other US National Security markets”.
Like Hypersonix, Kratos has been working towards producing “affordable testing” systems, including its Erinyes and Dark Fury hypersonic fliers and Zeus solid rocket motors.
“With Kratos’ Zeus and “other” rocket propulsion systems, Kratos and Hypersonix aim to frequently and reliably deliver an affordable, high cadence, high availability, overall hypersonic capable system and vehicle, to the hypersonic customer community,” says Kratos.
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