X-60A Mach 8 Hypersonic Test Platform

The Air Force Research Laboratory and Generation Orbit Launch Services is developing the Mach 8 hypersonic X-60A vehicle. It is an air-dropped liquid rocket specifically designed as a hypersonic flight test platform. X-60A program completed its Critical Design Review. This was a major milestone in the program. The program now moves into the build phase. In 2020, the X-60A will start hypersonic flying.

The X-60A is an affordable air-dropped single-stage rocket powered test platform. The X-60A’s LOX/kerosene liquid propulsion system maximizes performance and mission flexibility compared to traditional solid booster solutions. A small delta wing increases the overall maneuverability of the platform. The X-60A is an expendable research platform with an onboard flight telemetry system for research data capture.

The X-60A vehicle will be capable of flying several flight profiles of interest to the high-speed flight test community. In dash mode, the X-60A will be capable of reaching speeds up to Mach 5 – 8 with a test payload attached. The vehicle will also be capable of flying alternate test profiles depending on research requirements. The program’s goal is to develop and operate a low-cost platform that provides regular access the hypersonic flight conditions. The X-60A is not a space launch platform and cannot deliver payloads to orbit.

It has tailorable trajectories at hypersonic speeds and flight conditions. It is very difficult for regular rockets to change their flight paths. Regular rockets can reach hypersonic speeds easily but flight paths are usually like ballistic or cruise missiles.

The X-60A rocket vehicle propulsion system is a Hadley liquid rocket engine, which uses liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel. The system provides affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions spanning from Mach 5 to Mach 8. It can fly at high altitudes.

SOURCES – Air Force Research Laboratory, Generation Orbit Launch

Written by Brian Wang