Quarterhorse Mk 0 takes first steps toward breaking SR-71 speed record
In a bid to outdo the world speed record of the famous Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spyplane, aerospace technology company Hermeus has completed ground testing of its first fully-integrated prototype vehicle called Quarterhorse Mark 0.
In 1976, the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft was shattered by a spyplane that looked more like a spaceship. When it rolled out of Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works in Burbank, California before entering service in 1964, it was already a technological marvel. When it reached the record speed of Mach 3.3, it was in a class of its own.
With Quarterhorse, Heremeus aims at not only matching that 48-year-old record, but to surpass it. That's going to take more than just recreating 1960s technology. It will require pulling that technology into the 21st century. According to Hermeus, the company is doing this by building not one, but four prototypes before attempting to break the SR-71 record.
The Quarterhorse Mk 0 is the first of these. It isn't designed to fly, but rather to carry out taxiing tests at the US Air Force's Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Its objectives were to test remote control systems and taxiing ability, ground handling, radio frequency latency, and the ability of the craft to handle itself when the radio link is lost.
The next three prototypes will concentrate on developing the remote takeoff and landing system, breaking the sound barrier and, finally, pushing past Mach 3.3. The company says that working on four separate airframes spreads out the risk of failure, allows engineers to concentrate on a single goal, and speeds up overall development.
The next prototype, the Mark 1, is scheduled for later this year.
"Leveraging rapid and iterative design is how Hermeus will accelerate aircraft development on timelines that are relevant to our customers," said Hermeus CEO and co-founder, AJ Piplica. “Test campaigns measured in days instead of months or years, represent the pace required to mature hypersonic technology and field transformative aircraft.
The video below discusses the development of Quarterhorse.