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Navy League 2024: Australia's Hypersonix Launch Systems prepares to demonstrate DART scramjet-powered aircraft for DIU

A computer-generated image of the Hypersonix Launch Systems scramjet-powered DART hypersonic testbed. (Hypersonix Launch Systems)

Hypersonix Launch Systems, headquartered in Brisbane, is building a hypersonic test vehicle for the Defense Innovation Unit's (DIU's) hypersonic and high-cadence testing capabilities (HyCAT) programme. DIU issued a solicitation for the project in September 2022. Hypersonix Launch Systems was awarded a contract for scoping the work in March 2023, and a launch contract in September 2023, Matt Hill, Hypersonix Launch Systems CEO, told Janes on 9 April at the Navy League Sea-Air-Space 2024 global maritime exposition in National Harbor, Maryland.

The programme calls for an airborne test vehicle “that can maintain speeds above Mach 5 with a manoeuvrable/non-ballistic flight profile and at least a three-minute flight duration with near-constant flight conditions”, according to a DIU statement in April 2023.

Construction of the first DART air vehicle is under way, and Hypersonix Launch Systems recently completed the component-level preliminary design review, Hill said. Rocket Lab will provide the launch capabilities for the system for the initial test flight.

DART builds on more than 30 years of research in the hypersonics field by company co-founder Michael Smart, Hill said. Hypersonix Launch Systems was incorporated in late 2019, and development of the DART started then. Several Australian government grants have supported the work, limiting the need to raise significant capital, Hill noted. This research phase has enabled Hypersonix Launch Systems to mature the system, including significant shock-tunnel testing, he said. The first launch is expected in late 2024 or the first quarter (Q1) of 2025. Hypersonix Launch Systems plans to conduct two more DART launches in 2025. Hill said that he expects the technology to move into the deployment phase in the next two to four years.

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