Australian hypersonic test a success

Sept. 28, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Australian military scientists successfully completed another test flight of an experimental hypersonic vehicle, this time at the Andoya Rocket Range in Norway.

A test vehicle reached an apogee of nearly 218 miles and then achieved speeds of up to Mach 8 -- about 6,100 mph -- on descent.

The two-stage vehicle performed its nominal, sub-orbital space flight powered by a VS-30/Orion rocket, a Brazilian sounding, or research, rocket consisting of one Sonda stage and one U.S.-built Orion stage.

All sensor and telemetry systems worked perfectly, Australia's Defense Science and Technology Organization said.

The DST gave no details of the test vehicle.

Scientists say the launch could be a major step forward in the quest for hypersonic flight, the DSTO said in a statement on its website.

The experimental flight was undertaken as part of the joint Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation program by DSTO and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

The launch was the fifth in a series of up to nine planned experimental flights being conducted as part of the HIFiRE program, the DSTO, part of Australia's Department of Defense, said.

The test facility is around four miles from the Norway's Andoya Air Force Base, next to the village of Andenes, nearly 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The base has the country's second longest runway, capable of landing large freight planes such as the Antonov An 124-100.

Australia's successful test comes after last month's failed test for Boeing's experimental X-51A WaveRider aircraft. The technically troubled WaveRider, which looks like a small rocket with a flattened nose, can travel more than five times the speed of sound.

The WaveRider successfully launched from the wing of a B-52 bomber but after 16 seconds the test vehicle developed a problem with a control fin.

The test was terminated before the WaveRider's scramjet engine was ignited and the vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean, a report by Wired's Danger Room defense news website said.

The failure was the third for WaveRider, the Wired report said.

"All our data showed we had created the right conditions for engine ignition and we were very hopeful to meet our test objectives," U.S. Air Force Program Manager Charlie Brink said.

Technical issues surround getting the test vehicle, with its own scramjet engine, to high speeds using an attached conventional rocket. The scramjet engine needs the compressed air at super high speeds to operate efficiently and is ignited when high enough speeds are reached.

Boeing's X-51A scramjet first flew with some success in May 2010 off the coast of California, Wired reported.

The flight lasted 200 seconds and the vehicle reached Mach 5, about 3,800 mph.

During the thrust phase everything worked perfectly, but telemetry was lost toward the end of the flight and the craft was destroyed on command, Wired said.

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