The US-Australia Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HiFIRE) program had at least one successful hypersonic flight at Woomera testing range in South Australia last week. A round of experiments concluded on 12 July, confirmed Australian defense minister Marise Payne.
UQ hypersonics researchers collaborated with the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST Group) and US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Boeing, and BAE Systems for test flights in July 2017. This vehicle is a free-flying hypersonic glider, designed to fly at Mach 8 (8000 km/hr). It is designed to separate from its rocket booster in space and perform controlled manoeuvres as it enters the atmosphere. The test flight was intended to enable learning about how to fly a hypersonic vehicle at high altitude.
BAE Systems Australia said in a statement that “the successful flight trial [was] the most complex of all HIFiRE flights conducted to date”.
The $54m joint initiative involves the US Air Force, Boeing, the Australian Department of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Group, BAE Systems Australia, and the University of Queensland.
The University of Queensland is involved in three flights in the HIFiRE program. These tests will also be known as HyShot, V, VI and VII. The flights are planned to for launch at Woomera in South Australia, or an alternative range in Andoya, Norway. The three flights are funded by a $8.5 million Smart State National and International Research Alliances partnership between UQ, the Queensland Government, Boeing and DSTO (2007-2017) . This international collaboration allows UQ to build advanced scramjet prototypes and undertake prolonged flight tests at speeds of more than Mach 8.
HyShot V (HIFiRE 4)— A free-flying hypersonic glider
HyShot V will be a hypersonic waverider designed to fly at Mach 8 (8000 km/hr). It will separate from its rocket booster in space and perform controlled manoeuvres as it enters the atmosphere. This flight will not have a scramjet attached. It is about learning how to fly a hypersonic vehicle at high altitude.
HyShot VI (HIFiRE 7) — A free-flying Mach 8 scramjet
HyShot VI flew on 30 March 2015. It used an up-and-down trajectory similar to HyShot flights 1-IV, but the scramjet engine separated from the rocket and entered the atmosphere on its own at about Mach 8. The scramjet was one of the new breed of three-dimensional engines designed by UQ. The HIFiRE team collected data for the flight until the payload was re-entering the atmosphere at 65 km, when telemetry was lost. Unfortunately no scramjet engine data was able to be collected.
HyShot VII (HIFiRE 8) – Sustained Mach 8 Scramjet Powered Flight
HyShot VII is the culmination of the other two flights. It will be a scramjet-powered waverider vehicle and its design will make use of the information learned from HyShot V and VI. A depressed trajectory will be used for this flight and the HyShot team plans to fly the scramjet-powered vehicle horizontally for up to a minute at Mach 8. This compares with the brief experimental window of about 5 seconds for HyShot I-IV and VI. It is planned for 2019.