The Federal Government has awarded a $2.95 million research grant to four Australian companies to deliver the world’s first reusable hypersonic UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle).
Aerospace engineering business Hypersonix Launch Systems (Hypersonix) has been named as one of the recipients of the Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) funding, alongside the University of Southern Queensland, LSM Advanced Composites (LSM), and New South Wales-based Romar Engineering (Romar).
The project aims to launch a UAV, powered by a SPARTAN hydrogen-fuelled scramjet engine, to travel at hypersonic speeds up to Mach 12 (twelve times the speed of sound).
“I've seen massive growth in the space industry in Australia in the last 12 to 18 months, and there are tens and hundreds of millions of dollars being committed to space in Australia,” Romar CEO Alan Lipman tells Business News Australia.
“I think the space industry will be unrecognisable in two years once we start flying our own Australian developed spacecraft, which is not very far away and will happen this year - HyperSonix is due to fly their aircraft in 2023.
“You're going to see a situation now where all the development work, all the hard work taking place now, will result in space flight from Australia with Australian-developed and built craft.”
Known as ‘DART CMP Airframe – a reusable hypersonic platform’, the project deliverables include a complete UAV airframe including composite aeroshell and aerodynamic control surfaces, flight avionics, and hydrogen fuel system.
As scramjets take oxygen from the atmosphere, which reduces the weight by 60 per cent compared to rockets, the venture will enable DART CMP to be reusable by providing a new sovereign manufacturing capability for high-temperature oxide ceramic matrix composites.
Hypersonix is currently developing several hypersonic vehicles that fly between Mach 5 and Mach 12, producing zero CO2 emissions; only water vapour, due to the green hydrogen fuel.
“AE stands for additive engineering and is the fully 3D-printed version out of high-temperature alloys that are already available in Australia,” Hypersonix managing director David Waterhouse said.
“The type of high-temperature composites we require for DART CMP are currently not available here, therefore, there is an urgent need to develop these materials in Australia.
“We are thankful that the government acknowledged this gap and responded with accepting our application, and we can’t wait to have these materials ready in mid-2025.”
The University of Southern Queensland’s Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences Executive Director Professor Peter Schubel said the CRC-P success was an exciting step for its ongoing collaboration with Hypersonix.
“The University of Southern Queensland is applying its research expertise in the field of hypersonics and future materials to help realise an innovative mission," Professor Schubel said.
“Our role in the project will be to develop and test the prototype ultra-high temperature composite material needed.
“Our expertise in liquid moulding technologies, automated fibre placement, pultrusion, and filament winding capabilities with exotic materials allows us to develop revolutionary structures.”
Additive manufacturing/3D printing will be used where possible, covered by Sydney-based Romar Engineering, which received a $5.85 million space grant in 2021 to develop its fluid and motion control business.
“I’m hugely excited, we've got a very good talent pool here of smart engineers, and we've made it our business to hire the best people we can possibly find,” Lipman said.
“For any new project, I can start with them, and I know they're going to give it 110 per cent effort, and we'll get the results that HyperSonix is looking for because our people have been involved in the space industry.
“Steve Milanoski leads our advanced manufacturing team, he's a veteran of SpaceX, and I'm in the process of onboarding another expert, who's also got a lot of expertise in space, who is coming on from Blue Origin in the next few weeks.”
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