Lockheed Martin announced last August 11 that its Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) rocket motor successfully boosted the experimental X-51A WaveRider beyond Mach 4.5, the speed at which a scramjet will start and begin to provide thrust. The successful boost helped the X-51 hypersonic scramjet engine to accelerate to a historic Mach 5, a first for the vehicle.
The X-51 WaveRider is an unmanned aerial vehicle designed for extended hypersonic flight durations. The successful boost with the ATACMS rocket motor will allow for future advancements in hypersonic flight. In this test, the modified ATACMS motor was air-launched from a B-52 aircraft at 50,000 feet, and data collected validates its performance well beyond the original design specifications. This was the first time an ATACMS rocket motor has been used as a booster for an air-launched vehicle. More tests using the ATACMS motor are planned.
The modified rocket motor included a Boeing designed lightweight, high performance exit cone produced by Aerojet, a GenCorp company, for Lockheed Martin. The program is managed by a Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne team for the U.S. Air Force and DARPA.
Scott Arnold, Vice President of Precision Fires at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control “The ATACMS rocket motor has proved its power in combat, and now we’re happy to see it performing a mission that advances hypervelocity flight technology.”
According to John Myers, Vice President of Tactical Programs for Aerojet, “We are proud to have played a part in this new milestone in hypersonic flight and to have been given the opportunity to demonstrate our ability to modify existing motor designs for future applications.”
Aerojet is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader principally serving the missile and space propulsion, defense and armaments markets. GenCorp is a leading technology-based manufacturer of aerospace and defense products and systems with a real estate segment that includes activities related to the entitlement, sale, and leasing of the company’s excess real estate assets.
Previously DARPA viewed X-51 as a stepping stone to Black swift, a planned hypersonic demonstrator that was canceled in October 2008.