Quest to achieve Mach 12 boosted by SED funding and P&W engine's M6.5 ground trials

The US Department of Defense and NASA's US National Aerospace Initiative (NAI) has revealed more details about its recently unveiled Mach 4-7 single-engine hypersonic flight demonstrator (SED) as it continues to push towards a goal of achieving M12 by 2012.

Clearly derived from the abandoned ARMED (affordable rapid response missile demonstrator) wave-rider missile project, the US Air Force-backed SED uses many of the same design features and is now redirected towards a new role as an engine, rather than a weapon, demonstrator. The results of the proposed tests, due to take place with flights in 2007 and 2008, will feed into the M7 X-43C hydrocarbon-fuelled, multi-engined vehicle as well as future fast-reaction hypersonic missile studies.

The NAI plan, which aims to provide a raft of high-speed propulsion options for platforms ranging from hypersonic strike aircraft and missiles to reusable space launchers, has been boosted by the SED funding and the completion of Pratt & Whitney's GDE-1 (ground demonstration engine) M6.5 tests. The P&W engine, developed under the USAF's HyTech programme, is now scheduled to power the SED, and three of the follow-on GDE-2 versions will power the X-43C.

The GDE-1 is the first flight-weight, hydrocarbon-fuelled supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet). The GDE-2 is expected to run at NASA Langley next year for later development into a flight-test version for the X-43C. As many as 10 X-43C flights are planned from around 2007.

Other stepping stones towards M12 include M7 X-43A Hyper-X flights in October, and M10 early in 2004. These will be followed by tests of the dual-combustion ramjet-powered HyFly - a rocket-boosted, missile-shaped scramjet due for tests at M4 in 2004 and M6 in 2006.

The US Navy/Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency programme is a JP10-fuelled heavyweight engine vehicle in a fully integrated missile configuration. Up to 13 test flights are planned.

Source: Flight International