Qld research to build reusable hypersonic launch vehicles


Monday, 11 October, 2021

Qld research to build reusable hypersonic launch vehicles

Queensland innovation is blasting off in the rapidly growing industry of launching satellites into space.

Aerospace engineering, design and development company Hypersonix Launch Systems has announced it has teamed up with the University of Southern Queensland to create a reusable hypersonic UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), Delta Velos.

Professor Peter Schubel, Director of University of Southern Queensland’s Centre for Future Materials, said the launch vehicle was a technology demonstrator for key aspects of a reusable small satellite launch system.

“We are the first university to sign an agreement with Hypersonix Launch Systems to support their journey towards their first launch approximately two years from now,” he said. “This project will involve high- temperature composites manufacturing, which is an area of expertise for our team.

“The Centre for Future Materials is an industry-focused research and technology organisation delivering real-world, large-scale solutions for our clients, utilising our extensive laboratories and manufacturing equipment.

“We are excited to have Hypersonix Launch Systems joining as our latest research partner. Their innovative technology requires advanced composite materials, and we look forward to working with them and testing the most suitable materials for their needs.”

The goal is to investigate materials for their high temperature resistance and durability, with the potential to utilise them for reusing launch vehicles and engines.

Hypersonix Launch Systems Managing Director David Waterhouse said the agreement was ideal given the university’s extensive testing facilities.

“They offer a great range of testing, including materials characterisation, polymer analysis, mechanical testing and large-scale structural testing, including motor performance testing up to 250 kN thrust,” said Waterhouse. “This is exactly what we were looking for in our current building phase.”

Michael Smart, the company’s Chief Technical Officer, Head of R&D and co-founder, agreed, adding that the company was “extremely lucky to have the support of a university that has extensive expertise in the materials we require”.

Hypersonix Launch Systems’ vision is ‘to create the world’s leading sustainable hypersonic technology that fundamentally disrupts the way we fly to space and around the world’.

In contrast to most current rocket technology, the Hypersonix scramjet launch vehicles are not only reusable, returning to Earth after each flight, they also utilise green hydrogen fuel, emitting only water vapour as exhaust, while achieving speeds of up to Mach 12.

With a focus and expertise on scramjet technology and hypersonic launch systems, the company’s initial motivation is to deploy small satellites into LEO (low Earth orbit) and find a unique place in the rapidly growing satellite launch market.

In the future the company hopes to expand into passenger travel, predicting scramjet technology could cut the travel time from Sydney to New York down to 2.5 hours.

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