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Air Force, Aerojet Rocketdyne Complete Hypersonic Engine Test

Hypersonic engine

Air Force, Aerojet Rocketdyne Complete Hypersonic Engine Test

The Air Force Research Laboratory and Aerojet Rocketdyne have finished a series of tests for an advanced air-breathing hypersonic engine under the Air Force’s Medium Scale Critical Components program.

The joint effort is considered a milestone as the two organizations managed to power the first hydrocarbon-fueled and cooled air-breathing hypersonic flight test, the company said Tuesday

Eileen Drake, CEO and president, said the company’s scramjet engine powered the service’s X-51A Waverider and made the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight in 2010. 

“Our Generation-3 scramjet delivers increased performance and affordability because of our significant investments in our skilled workforce, advanced technologies and innovative manufacturing processes,” she said. 

Paul Kennedy, AFRL program manager, said the company showed the capability of the engine, including its applicability to platforms such as in missiles and high-speed aircraft. 

“Years of preparation paid off as the completion of the MSCC test program sets the foundation for the design of hypersonic propulsion systems across a broad range of vehicle scale and Mach operability,” he said. 

In a statement, the company said the engine measures 18 feet and produces thrust levels of over 13K pounds. The testing took place over 12 months with more than an hour of sustained combustion at several hypersonic flight conditions. 

Testing was conducted by the ground test team running the Arnold Engineering Development Complex Aerodynamic and Propulsion Test Unit at Arnold Air Force Base.

Kirk Butler, operations director for the AEDC’s hypersonic systems test branch and ground test team section lead, expects that the experience acquired from the testing will contribute to future designs and serve as a study case. 

“AEDC and the APTU facility have been proud to partner on this challenging and rewarding test program. The test team has worked through COVID-19 restraints, shared base resources and hardware limitations to make the test successful,” he said.

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Tags: advanced air-breathing hypersonic engine Aerojet Rocketdyne Eileen Drake hypersonics Kirk Butler Medium Scale Critical Components Paul Kennedy Popular Voices U.S. Air Force X-51A Waverider