China claims successful test of hypersonic waverider

10 August 2018
An official image of the launch vehicle carrying the Starry Sky-2 waverider test vehicle during a 3 August test in northwestern China. Source: CASC

The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), the flight technology development arm of state-owned space and defence technology prime China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), announced on 3 August that it has successfully developed and tested China’s first experimental hypersonic waverider, called Xing Kong-2 (Starry Sky-2).

The institute stated on its official social media account that the hypersonic test vehicle was first carried by a solid-propellant rocket supplied by the Fourth Academy of the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation (CASIC), also known as the CASIC Delivery Technology Technical Research Institute.

CAAA claimed that the test vehicle – which it said had been in development for three years – was launched from an undisclosed launch facility in northwestern China and separated cleanly from the booster rocket following a 10-minute ascent and controlled transition, successfully engaging its own propulsion system to perform independent flight for over 400 seconds, attaining a maximum speed of Mach 6 and flight ceiling of 30 km (98,425 km/h).

The internally funded demonstration was aimed at validating core technologies that are vital to hypersonic flight, with CAAA noting that the test vehicle was subsequently recovered in its complete state at a designated landing zone.

“The test has laid a solid technological foundation for engineering applications of the waverider design,” the institute said in its statement, adding that the “completely successful” effort has enabled its technical staff to acquire valuable performance and telemetry data for further refinement of indigenous hypersonic aerodynamics (including micro-vortex generation), flight control and guidance, payload separation, propulsion, and thermal protection technologies.

China has reportedly tested hypersonic aircraft in the past, but principally with hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) that were launched to high altitudes via booster rockets and then flown unpowered to their targets at hypersonic speeds – defined as being greater than Mach 5.

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