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Hypersonix takes delivery of first high temperature composite SCRAMJET

The 3D printed SPARTAN SCRAMJET engine (above) will power the DART AE hypersonic aircraft (top). Hypersonix Launch Systems plans to 3D print the engines and airframes in Australia. Images: Hypersonix Launch Systems

Hypersonix has taken delivery of a technology demonstrator version of its hydrogen powered SCRAMJET (Supersonic Combustion Ramjet) manufactured in High Temperature Ceramic Matrix Composites (HTCMCs) by a leading European aerospace manufacturer. HTCMCs are capable of resisting repeated cycles of extreme heating and cooling, which makes them a material of choice for Hypersonix’ planned re-useable hypersonic vehicles.

The SPARTAN SCRAMJET will power Hypersonix’s DART AE, an unmanned hypersonic flight demonstrator designed to allow customers to investigate flight conditions, data transmission and manoeuvrability at hypersonic speeds. DART AE will be able to generate valuable data and insights on hypersonic operations cheaper than other current hypersonic programs.

The multi-award-winning SPARTAN engine is already available in Inconel 718, 3D-printed in Australia in cooperation with Melbourne-based Amiga Engineering and capable of speeds of up to Mach 7. This technology demonstrator project has perfected the design and techniques required to offer a version using a different material that can operate at speeds of up to Mach 12 and sustain the rigours of repeated flights. When traveling at Mach 5 or higher speeds, the high heat generated by friction can compromise the structural integrity of various critical parts of hypersonic vehicles.

The HTCMCs are next-generation materials developed for the heat and mechanical pressures required for high Mach number flight. Qualification of these materials for hypersonic applications required the manufacturing of demonstrators that replicate the complex geometry of scramjets, allow the analysis of hydrogen and air flows within the engine, and can be produced rapidly and economically.

The single-use DART AE flyers will be 3D-printed out of high temperature alloys, enabling quick turnaround between flights, high cadence of testing and rapid availability of additional units. However, customers now need re-useable, aircraft like hypersonic vehicles with landing gear and flexible launch options. Hypersonix’s end game is all about re-usability.

“Although we are focussing most of our energy this year on setting up our DART AE manufacturing capacity, Hypersonix is already working on the next steps in our product roadmap, taking the composite scramjet to a manufacturing ready state,” said David Waterhouse, the company’s Managing Director.

“Australia is leading the world in scramjets and hypersonic technology and is looking to capitalise on our leading position, with the support of Commonwealth grants. High Temperature Composite technology is in its infancy in Australia, so we are working with various parties to speed up applications and would welcome orders from Australia and state government support in maturing and making HT composite products here.”

The completion of the manufacturing pilot of a composite scramjet is a major development for the company. A SPARTAN engine will fly faster on longer missions, turning the self-igniting engine off and on again several times during the flight and skipping through the atmosphere like an airplane.

“It was a huge moment for the Engineering team to unpack our composite SPARTAN version which has been designed by our team and produced in a very complex and never done before process working very closely over the last 2 years with a team of experts in Germany,” said Michael Smart, Hypersonix’s CTO, Head of R&D and Co-Founder.

The company’s goal is to see a 3D printing capability for higher temperature materials established on a sustainable basis in Australia.

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