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AFRL makes hypersonic research history with Aerojet Rocketdyne

Aerojet Rocketdyne and DARPA collaborated on the X-51 Waverider program; their collaboration has resulted in a series of record-breaking hypersonic propulsion trials in the USA. Photo: AFRL

The US Air Force’s Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) teamed up with Aerojet Rocketdyne in November to complete a successful series of record-breaking tests of an advanced air-breathing hypersonic engine.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne joins the record setting team for the highest thrust produced by an air-breathing scramjet hypersonic engine,” said Paul Kennedy, AFRL program manager. “Tests were conducted across a range of Mach numbers demonstrating performance to accelerate a vehicle 10 times the size of the X-51 Waverider, at hypersonic speeds. The years of preparation paid off as the completion of the Medium Scale Critical Components (MSCC) test program sets the foundation for design of hypersonic propulsion systems across a broad range of vehicle scale and Mach operability. Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully demonstrated the scalability of their air-breathing scramjet engine, proving its applicability to platforms ranging from missiles to high speed aircraft.”

“Our scramjet engine powered the United States Air Force X-51A Waverider when it made history in 2010 by completing the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever and we continue to propel the technology,” Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president said. “Our Generation-3 scramjet delivers increased performance and affordability because of our significant investments in our skilled workforce, advanced technologies, and innovative manufacturing processes.”

AFRL harnessed Aerojet Rocketdyne’s capabilities to test the 18-foot-long scramjet engine which produced more than 13,000 pounds of thrust. Even despite the adversity of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the test team operating at the AEDC APTU facility found ways to overcome and succeed.”

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