Alliant Techsystems, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) successfully ground-launched and flew a hypersonic scramjet-powered vehicle from the Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. in a pre-dawn launch on Saturday, Dec. 10. This was the first-ever free flight of a scramjet-powered vehicle using conventional liquid hydrocarbon jet fuel. The launch and flight test were part of the Freeflight Atmospheric Scramjet Test Technique (FASTT) program sponsored by DARPA and ONR.
As the system integrator, ATK designed and built the FASTT vehicle. This was the first time the company had complete design authority over the hypersonic scramjet propulsion system and the airframe. In addition, ATK served as the mission manager for both the launch and the flight of the test vehicle, including development of test plans and coordination of all design and mission readiness reviews.
ATK previously built the hydrogen-fueled X-43A Scramjet, the world-record holder for powered flight which obtained a top speed of nearly Mach 10 in a November 2004 flight test. “The successful FASTT flight test and ATK’s record-setting X-43A flight tests clearly position ATK as a world-leader in the development and test of hypersonic propulsion systems and airframes,” said Blake Larson, President ATK Advanced Propulsion and Space Systems. “One goal of ATK’s hypersonic flight program is to develop advanced hypersonic weaponry and this flight test is a significant step in that direction,” said Larson
The FASTT vehicle was approximately 106 inches long and 11 inches in diameter. It integrated a Scramjet engine into a missile configuration. After separating from its booster rocket at more than 60,000 feet, the Scramjet engine ignited and propelled the vehicle at approximately 5,300 feet per second – or Mach 5.5. Using JP-10 fuel, the Scramjet flew for at least 15 seconds while critical engineering data was captured via on-board sensors and tracking radars. The vehicle continued in stable flight mode until it splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.
The ground-launched flight test demonstrated a viable and cost-effective flight-test method for future hypersonic Scramjet initiatives.
In addition to the FASTT program, ATK’s Boost-to-Cruise initiative is developing hypersonic missile technologies capable of sustained flight at Mach 5 and delivering payloads on target more than 600 nautical miles down range.
ATK is a $3.1 billion advanced weapon and space systems company employing approximately 15,000 people in 23 states. News and information can be found on the Internet at www.atk.com.