Brisbane-based aerospace company Hypersonix Launch Systems has teamed up with twinning platform developer Nominal Systems to develop a digital demonstrator version of its DART AE hypersonic vehicle ahead of its first launch next year.
Hard on the heels of being selected this year to provide hypersonic vehicles to the United States’ Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) for testing, Hypersonix says the partnership will not only create a digital twin of the flyer, but also the atmospheric environment in which it will operate.
Hypersonix and Canberra-based Nominal Systems plan to develop Hyper Twin X TM, the digital twin concept demonstrator of DART AE which Hypersonix aims to launch next year as part of its agreement with DIU.
The DART AE is a 3.5-metre hypersonic aircraft that utilises a hydrogen-powered scramjet propulsion system to reach speeds of Mach 7 – or seven times the speed of sound. Speeds above Mach 5 are referred to as hypersonic.
The DART utilises additive engineering (AE) as part of the flight vehicle will be produced via 3D printing from high temperature nickel alloy.
Hypersonix has described it as the next generation of hypersonic vehicles that could be used to deploy low-earth orbit satellites and create high-speed aircraft for commercial uses.
Andy Mulholland, Hypersonix’s head of product, describes the company’s technology as more advanced than any other ramjet airbreathing jet engine in the world.
“The vision that we have for the company is to be able to use the scramjet propulsion system to create a new satellite launch system that is low cost, high cadence and reusable,” Mulholland tells Business News Australia.
“You can imagine an aircraft taking off with a satellite on board, flying to the edge of space, deploying it and coming back to land like a normal plane.
“There are other applications, of course, including defence for intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, while there also are uses for the high-speed transport of cargo.”
The production of a hypersonic digital twin allows the partners to conduct endless virtual flight tests to prove out missions before the real flight vehicle is built.
“One of the big benefits of the twin is that we will be able to pull data in from actual DART flights and our future vehicle flights and use that to train the predictive algorithms on that side of it,” Mulholland says.
“Hypersonic flight is an extremely hostile environment and simulating the physics at these speeds is a complex but important aspect of mission success.
“We have built a very unique high-performance simulation capability and we’ll be capturing lots of flight data once DART AE takes to the sky.
“Combining these things into a hypersonic digital twin will allow us to fly DART AE virtually, see the impacts of mission concept changes, and allow customers to train hypersonic detect and intercept systems.”
Mulholland notes that while the company’s vision is to develop a new generation of automated unmanned aircraft for the aerospace sector, he concedes this may broaden should hypersonic passenger flights become a reality.
“The future is wide open for this technology,” he says.
“If there is a market for hyper-speed travel for people, and indeed even as a manned vehicle, we would follow that market.
“We believe we have a scramjet technology that is further advanced than many other air breathing engines at the moment, and we will be able to capitalise on that.”
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