X-60A hypersonic rocket systems verified with ground testing


The US Air Force Research Laboratory’s X-60A hypersonic research program has achieved a key milestone with the completion of integrated vehicle propulsion system verification ground testing.

The X-60A is an air-launched rocket designed specifically for hypersonic flight research which is being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services under anAir Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Small Business Innovation Research contract.

The aim of the X-60A program is to provide affordable and routine access to relevant hypersonic flight conditions for technology maturation. The recent propulsion system verification ground testing included both cold flow and hot fire testing with the Hadley liquid rocket engine developed by Ursa Major Technologies.

Flight-like hardware was tested using flight-like operational procedures. The test runs covered full duration burns, engine gimbaling for thrust vector control, and system throttling.

Barry Hellman, AFRL’s X-60A program manager said, “This test series was a critical step in reducing risk and gathering necessary system integration data in preparation for our upcoming flight tests.

“When we go to flight later this year, we hope to demonstrate the capability of the X-60A to provide affordable access to hypersonic flight conditions, which will position AFRL to deliver an innovative test capability for the Air Force and other DoD organizations.”

X-60A is a single-stage liquid rocket which is launched from a modified business jet carrier aircraft. It is capable of testing a range of hypersonic technologies including airbreathing propulsion, advanced materials, and hypersonic vehicle subsystems.

The vehicle propulsion system uses liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. The system is designed to provide affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions above Mach 5.

During the upcoming flight tests, which will be based out of Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville, Florida, the X-60A will fly at the relevant conditions necessary for technology maturation. Data will be collected to validate the overall vehicle design functionality as well as performance predictions.


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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 20 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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