Australian startup picked to provide hypersonic jets for US Defense Innovation Unit

Australian startup picked to provide hypersonic jets for US Defense Innovation Unit

A render of Hypersonix's DART AE scramjet

Brisbane-based aerospace company Hypersonix Launch Systems has been selected to provide hypersonic vehicles to the United States’ Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) for testing, beating out a field of international aerospace companies for the contract.

Hypersonix, which uses 3D-printing to build unmanned hydrogen-fuelled SPARTAN scramjet-engine powered jets, will work with the Silicon Valley-headquartered organisation on its Hypersonic and High-Cadence Airborne Testing Capabilities (HyCAT1) program.

The startup, which was awarded a $3 million research grant from the Federal Government one year ago, was selected from 63 respondents to DIU’s solicitation for vehicles usable for high cadence long-endurance testing of hypersonic platforms and components.

Specifically, DIU requested a vehicle capable of operating in a ‘representative environment’ that can maintain speeds above Mach 5 with a manoeuvrable/non-ballistic flight profile and at least a three-minute flight duration.

The company’s DART AE (‘additive engineering’) vehicle was put forward, which is capable of flying non-ballistic flight patterns at speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 7 and up to 1,000kms in range, equating to 400 seconds of flight time.

The DART AE also has a modular payload bay of up to 9kgs, and the company plans to fly it in early 2024.

“Our vehicles are capable of non-ballistic flight patterns to at least Mach 7, which exceeds the HyCAT1 specification,” Hypersonix managing director David Waterhouse said.

“Our longer-term focus is to capture a slice of the emerging multi-billion-dollar commercial market for deployment of small satellites, but clearly Australia’s strategic defence allies see immediate potential in our technology.

“This is our first major contract and a key step in our commercialisation process – we couldn’t be happier. This puts Australia one step closer to being a major player in the international space race.”

Founded in 2019 to commercialise technology developed by co-founder Michael Smart over a period of 30 years, Hypersonix is currently working on several hypersonic vehicles that fly between Mach 5 and Mach 12, producing zero CO2 emissions; only water vapour, due to the green hydrogen fuel.

Co-founder Smart, who is also the CTO at Hypersonix, has significant experience under his belt in the world of scramjet technology, including 10 years as a research scientist at the NASA Langley Research Centre in Virginia.

Beyond the DIU deal, the company has previously partnered with the likes of the University of Sydney to build its zero emissions hypersonic jet capable of deploying small satellites into low earth orbit.

That partnership gave Hypersonix access to University of Sydney’s 3D printing facilities, where most of the components of the hypersonic jet will be built.

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