Aircraft

Experimental hypersonic craft hits Mach 7.5

Experimental hypersonic craft ...
HiFiRE 5B lifting off from Woomera
HiFiRE 5B lifting off from Woomera
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HiFiRE 5B lifting off from Woomera
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HiFiRE 5B lifting off from Woomera

The Australian Department of Defence has announced the successful launch of a hypersonic aircraft called Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE) 5B at the Woomera Test range. According to a statement, the craft reached a velocity of Mach 7.5 (5,710 mph, 9,188 km/h) and an altitude of 278 km (173 mi) as part of an Australian-United States program to study fundamental technologies needed to travel over five times the speed of sound.

According to the University of Queensland (UQ), HIFiRE 5B was one of 10 experimental flights intended to gain a better understanding of the physics and aerodynamics of sustained hypersonic flight, which could one day lead to travel from Sydney to London in under two hours.

Boosted by sounding rockets before being propelled to seven-and-a-half times the speed of sound by a scramjet engine, the HiFiRE craft has already shown advances in hypersonic aircraft design, assembly and pre-flight testing, as well as advanced avionics and flight systems. In addition, the flights have returned a great deal of data about the physical conditions of hypersonic flight itself.

HIFiRE began in 2006 and is a joint effort by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group and the US Air Force Research Laboratory, with Boeing and UQ providing technical expertise. Previous test flights were conducted from the US Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii and further tests are scheduled to continue over the next two years.

"The success of this test launch takes us one step closer to the realization of hypersonic flight," says Chief Defence Scientist Dr Alex Zelinsky. "It is a game-changing technology identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper and could revolutionise global air travel, providing cost-effective access to space."

Source: Australian Department of Defence

9 comments
Dave82
Seems a bit of an extreme waste of energy just to go half way around the world in a few hours? I cant imagine this would ever power something like a 747 or A380.
Rocky Stefano
@Dave82 - Perhaps not the mere mortal like you and me. But Hugh Hefner perhaps.
BobbyHankHill
look Russian and china, Australia can do it too.
JamesMariani
following on the heels of the DARPA's X43, which has flown for years. the photo is a rocket, not exactly new.
Gene Preston
The rocket simply got the jet into its slipstream altitude. Read the article.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Very valuable as a second stage air breathing booster.
habakak
Yeah, strap a rocket to anything and it's going to reach that speed. Now where to get a rocket to get a 747 up to that speed. Without scaring the bejesus out of passengers or tearing the plane apart. Yep. Didn't think so. This stuff will remain fantasy for many more decades, if not another half century. The Concord has been retired for almost 13 years now and we're no closer to supersonic passenger travel. The Concord had an awesome safety record, but it was just not economical. It is not going to happen soon.
Firehawk70
@habakak, actually if you strap a rocket to something, it'll go as fast as Mach 25 to escape earth's orbit. But that uses a huge amount of fuel, so I think the idea of a scramjet is a more efficient tool for "sustained" hypersonic flight. Americans today expect everything overnight. No patience. Just because we have not cracked this in a few decades doesn't mean mankind is useless. It took 60 years to make a Higgs particle but we (probably) did that finally. Of course the other giant problem is funding. Since the rich folks got their huge tax breaks in the 80s and the 00s, NASA and other govt funded agencies and universities will be slower at producing the kind of stuff that only govt can afford to do, and did so amazingly in the 50s and 60s. And people can't honestly point at Dragon as an example of the private sector solving those problems. Without NASA spending the big money back then, none of that would ever have existed.
mokkybear54
The point was not to achieve hypersonic speeds, but to study what happens to a craft travelling at those speeds in order understand hypersonic flight dynamics.