Australian aerospace startup Hypersonix Launch Systems Ltd. and American Kratos Defense have signed an agreement to develop and launch a hypersonic drone demonstrator next year.
The DART AE drone will be 3D-printed out of “exquisite high-temperature materials” and “powered by a single, fifth-generation SPARTAN, zero-emission, clean hydrogen scramjet engine.”
The drone’s Kratos booster will accelerate the vehicle over Mach 5 in the first phase of flight. Then, a scramjet engine will ignite with the drone flying autonomously “along a programmed flight path to a predetermined landing location,” the companies explained.
Kratos will also be responsible for integrating the aircraft’s multiple systems.
The developers plan a demonstration flight of 500 kilometers (310.6 miles).
Hypersonix claims its engine is designed to operate between Mach 5 and 12 and will leverage Kratos’ experience of hypersonic experimental flight test programs in development of the drone.
The Queensland-based company tested its “green and reusable” engine at up to Mach 10 last year in a University of Queensland shock tunnel.
“We put our SPARTAN scramjet through 111 shock tunnel test shots from Mach 5 to Mach 10 and it came through with flying colors, validating our latest design,” Hypersonix CEO and co-founder David Waterhouse said.
According to the company, hydrogen has more thrust to weight ratio than any rocket fuel. The green hydrogen used for the drone engine is extracted from water using solar power.