Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Air Force is speeding-up its program to develop hypersonic weapons capable of speeds in excess of Mach 5 (6,000 km/h) by accelerating its use of a new hypersonic flight research vehicle code named the “X-60A.”
This vehicle developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. was formerly designated the GOLauncher 1 or GO1. Applications of GO1 include hypersonics testing; access to high-altitudes for microgravity and astrophysics testing and avionics research. GO flew its first captive carry test in July 2014.
This air-dropped liquid rocket is specifically designed for hypersonic flight research to mature technologies. Among these technologies are scramjet propulsion, high temperature materials and autonomous control.
The X-60A enables faster development of the Air Force’s current hypersonic weapon rapid prototypes and evolving future systems, said Col Colin Tucker, military deputy in the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering.
Col Tucker said the Air Force has long needed this type of test vehicle to better understand how materials and other technologies behave while flying at more than five times the speed of sound. In this aspect, the X-60A is like a flying wind tunnel that can capture data complementing the Air Force’s current ground test capability.
X-60A is a single-stage liquid rocket. It uses the Hadley rocket engine that burns liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. The rocket system is designed to provide affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8.
The rocket vehicle will be launched from under the belly of a NASA C-20A, a military version of the Gulfstream III business jet. The X-60A completed a grounded hot firing test in June and its first flight is planned for late 2019.
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