|May 22, 2009 01:12pm
AUSTRALIAN and US defence scientists have conducted a successful test flight of a hypersonic aircraft high over the Woomera test range in outback South Australia.
Defence Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon said the Woomera flight, conducted earlier this month, was the first in a series of up to 10 planned hypersonic flight experiments.
The flights are part of a joint research program between the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and the US Air Force.
He said the program, called the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE), was investigating hypersonics technology and its potential for next-generation aeronautics.
Hypersonics is the study of flight exceeding five times the speed of sound and this trial has successfully tested flight and mission control systems that will be used in future experiments, he said.
"Using nitrogen gas valves as thrusters to manoeuvre the test vehicle in space, the test vehicle was turned onto the correct heading and elevation for re-entry into the atmosphere as designed,'' he said.
Under the HIFiRE program, the test vehicle was carried some 200km into the atmosphere aboard a rocket launched from Woomera.
It then dived back into the atmosphere at high speed to test the hypersonic flight technology.
Mr Snowdon said the HIFiRE collaboration had already achieved some significant milestones in design, assembly and pre-flight testing of hypersonic vehicles and the design of complex avionics and flight systems.
"Hypersonic technology offers a quantum leap in speed and fuel efficiency for air vehicles of the future,'' he said.
"Thanks to the work of this dedicated team of DSTO scientists, Australia is at the forefront of this technology.''
The HIFiRE project is worth about $70 million and is one of the largest collaborative ventures undertaken between Australia and the US.