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Weapons

AFRL assigns X-60A designation to GOLauncher1 hypersonic test vehicle

12 October 2018
Artist’s concept of a X-60A hypersonic test vehicle just after launch from its Gulfstream III carrier aircraft. Source: Generation Orbit Launch Services

The US Air Force (USAF) has assigned the experimental 'X' series designation X-60A to the GOLauncher1 (GO1) hypersonic flight research vehicle being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division.

Being developed by Generation Orbit as an affordable and flexible hypersonic testbed to trial a wide range of high-speed technologies, the GO1 is an air-launched vehicle powered by an Ursa Major Technologies' 'Hadley' single-stage liquid rocket engine (which utilises liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants). Launched from a Gulfstream III carrier aircraft, the system "is designed to enable affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8 to a wide range of payloads for fundamental research, technology development, and risk reduction," said the AFRL.

Generation Orbit was awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract by the AFRL in July 2014, with a Phase II award following in August 2015. A Phase II Extension was placed in 2016 to enable wind tunnel and integrated hot fire testing of the GO1 hypersonic testbed.

A Follow-On Phase II SBIR contract was received from the AFRL in April 2017 for development and flight testing of the GO1. A first flight test is scheduled for late 2019, with the X-60A vehicle planned to achieve a speed of Mach 6 within the atmosphere.

GO1 Inert Test Article (ITA) captive carry flight testing was performed in December 2017 using a NASA C-20A (Gulfstream III) aircraft. Three flight tests were conducted, successfully completing all test objectives including clearing the operational flight envelope of the C-20A with the GO1-ITA (mounted on the centreline hard point), as well as demonstration of the unique launch manoeuvre designed for air launch of the GO1 on operational flights.

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