Hypersonix has selected Rocket Lab USA as its partner for the maiden launch of the DART AE craft, as part of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) HyCAT program.
According to a statement from Hypersonix, made during the Colorado Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Rocket Lab’s Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron (HASTE) rocket “will safely bring DART AE to its initial operating speed, allowing DART AE to demonstrate its non-ballistic flight patterns, acceleration, flexible engine burns and up to 1000 km range, and collect valuable flight data from its journey at hypersonic speed.”
DART AE’s scramjet engine needs to reach Mach 5 speed in order to self-ignite. “Once flying at this speed, the oxygen-breathing and hydrogen-fuelled engine, manufactured out of high temperature alloys, is capable of accelerating to speeds of up to Mach 7,” according to the statement.
The US subsidiary of Brisbane-based Hypersonix was named last month as a contract winner on DIU’s “Hypersonic and High-Cadence Airborne Testing Capabilities” (HyCAT1) program. The program seeks to test craft in a “representative environment”, maintaining speeds greater than Mach 5 with a manoeuvrable/non-ballistic flight profile and a minimum three-minute flight duration with near-constant flight conditions.
No dates for a launch were given in the most recent announcement, made on Monday morning (Colorado time). DIU said its HyCAT tests will begin “within 12-18 months” according to the March announcement. It represents the Australian company’s first major contract.
Hypersonix was established with the aim of eventually being able to fly small satellites into space, though recently said Australia’s allies saw the “immediate potential” in its technologies.
Rocket Lab and Hypersonix had been considering “avenues of cooperation” since 2020, they said.
David Waterhouse, CEO of Hypersonix USA, said the company had looked at various launch providers globally, and DART AE was designed to work with a variety of boosters.
“We are particularly excited to get our first ride from Rocket Lab,” he said.
“Their track record of successful launches, their team as well as their rockets are impressive and we look forward to seeing DART AE fly for the first-time next year”.
Rocket Lab is Nasdaq-listed and California-based and was established in Auckland in 2006. It manufactures rockets, and provides launch services for small satellite owners. It has launch sites at New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula and Virgina in the US.
Picture: Waterhouse and Peter Beck, CEO Rocket Lab USA (supplied)