USAF completes ground tests of hypersonic flight research rocket
The US Air Force has completed ground test firings of a new rocket designed to provide affordable access to hypersonic flight conditions to accelerate development of the technology. At Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville, Florida, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) put a prototype X-60A single-stage liquid rocket through cold- and hot-fire tests under flight-like conditions in the lead up to actual flight tests.
Hypersonic flight may have tremendous potential for military and civilian applications, but developing the necessary technologies to operate at speeds well in excess of Mach 5 (3,806 mph, 6,125 km/h) is incredibly expensive and time consuming. To bring down costs, the Generation Orbit Launch Services company is developing the X-60A under an AFRL Small Business Innovation Research contract.
The X-60A it's an unmanned, expendable, air-dropped liquid rocket intended for hypersonic research for the High-Speed Systems Division of the AFRL's Aerospace Systems Directorate. Powered by a Hadley liquid rocket engine developed by Ursa Major Technologies that burns liquid oxygen and kerosene, it's small enough to be dropped from an aircraft the size of a business jet and can reach speeds of Mach 8 (6,089 mph, 9,800 km/h) while sending back flight data.
According to the AFRL, when it becomes operational, the new rocket will be used to test various hypersonic technologies, including air-breathing propulsion, advanced materials, and hypersonic vehicle subsystems.
The recent integrated vehicle propulsion system verification ground testing involved full duration burns, engine gimbaling for thrust vector control, and system throttling. It will now go on to flight testing at Cecil Spaceport, where data will be collected for validating the overall design and performance.
"This test series was a critical step in reducing risk and gathering necessary system integration data in preparation for our upcoming flight tests," says Barry Hellman, AFRL X-60A program manager. "When we go to flight later this year, we hope to demonstrate the capability of the X-60A to provide affordable access to hypersonic flight conditions, which will position AFRL to deliver an innovative test capability for the Air Force and other DoD organizations."
Source: US Air Force