Australian aerospace engineering start-up Hypersonix is partnering with the University of Sydney to build a zero emissions hypersonic spaceplane capable of deploying small satellites into low earth orbit or cross the Atlantic in 90 minutes. The aim is to make satellite launches more accessible as well as more sustainable, by using green hydrogen as fuel.
Since its creation in 2019, the company has developed a 3-stage satellite launch system, called Wirraway, powered by sustainable green hydrogen fuel and using reusable scramjet engine technology, which make the system emission free.
One of the challenges of developing hypersonic capable aircraft is finding the right materials that can withstand the conditions created by flying at such speeds. At speeds of over 6,000 kilometres per hour, friction caused by molecules flowing over the hypersonic aircraft can generate temperatures higher than 2,000˚C, but Hypersonix Launch Systems is choosing its materials to cope with these extremes.
The team, composed of almost 20 aerospace engineers, is using Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMC), which is a lightweight material with a high strength-to-weight ratio, even at high temperatures, high thermal shock resistance and toughness.
The aircraft are powered by Hypersonix’s SPARTANm which is capable of accelerating from Mach 5 to Mach 12. “The world’s best scramjet, SPARTAN, is the only reusable fixed geometry scramjet technology, unlocking new possibilities for hypersonic technologies. The hydrogen-powered SPARTAN is the world’s first 3D-printed fixed geometry scramjet, delivering performance, reliability, lead time and cost advantages over more traditional manufacturing methods”, says the company.
The Delta-Velos craft will be part of the Wirraway system and is supposed to be able to fly for 2,500 km at hypersonic speed and then land like a usual aircraft, ready to take off again after refuelling.
Hypersonix hopes to have the Delta-Velos fully operational by 2024 and while it is currently only working as a satellite launching system, the plan is to join the race for developing hypersonic airliners.