Chief Defence Scientist Dr Alex Zelinsky today congratulated an Australian-United States team on the success of an experimental hypersonic flight at the Woomera Test Range.
CAPTION: HIFiRE 5b rocket launches successfully at the Woomera Test Range in South Australia on May 18, 2016. Photo by Corporal Bill Solomou
The experimental rocket reached an apogee of 278km, achieving the targeted speed of Mach 7.5 (seven and a half times the speed of sound).
The experimental flight was undertaken as part of a joint research program, HIFiRE (Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation Program) being conducted by the Defence Science and Technology Group and the US Air Force Research Laboratory with Boeing and the University of Queensland providing expert technical design and analysis.
“The success of this test launch takes us one step closer to the realisation of hypersonic flight,” Dr Zelinsky said.
Hypersonic flight, involving speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, has the potential to provide immense social and economic benefits [not to mention weapons, of course].
“It is a game-changing technology identified in the 2016 Defence White Paper and could revolutionise global air travel, providing cost-effective access to space,” Dr Zelinsky said [because Defence is in the business of developing air travel].
The program is aimed at exploring the fundamental technologies critical to the realisation of sustained hypersonic flight.
Boeing’s chief scientist for hypersonics Kevin Bowcutt said the HIFiRE program will accelerate the development of operational hypersonic systems by producing valuable scientific flight data.
Professor Michael Smart from the University of Queensland praised the highly skilled individuals involved in the program and said they were placing the Australian aerospace industry on the international stage.
The HIFiRE team has already achieved some significant milestones such as the design, assembly and pre-flight testing of the hypersonic vehicles and the design of complex avionics and flight systems.
More test flights are scheduled in the next two years.