Australian startup Hypersonix Launch Systems, based in Brisbane, has partnered with Rocket Lab USA for the first test launch of its 3D printed spaceplane, the DART AE scramjet.
Hypersonix was selected last month by the US Defense Innovation Unit for a program testing hypersonic platforms and components, capable of operating in a “representative environment”.
The launch will take place next year, using Rocket Lab’s Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron rocket. The DART AE is capable of flying at speeds faster than five times the speed of sound, with a non-ballistic flight pattern, acceleration, 1000km range and flexible engine burns.
Hypersonix’s longer-term focus is to capture a slice of the emerging multi-billion-dollar commercial market for deployment of small satellites. The vehicles are capable of non-ballistic flight patterns up to at least Mach 7 following a Mach 5 launch, exceeding the program’s specification.
“The Montgolfier brothers developed the air balloon, then the Wright Brothers developed fixed-wing flight, and then propeller technology moved on. Then in the Second World War, jet propulsion came on board,” said Michael Smart, Hypersonix’s head of R&D.
“All these new technologies came along to make aircraft technology more efficient, faster, safer … So, spaceplanes, particularly these scramjet engines, are the next technological leap in access to space.”
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