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Trialling hypersonic flight at Woomera

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22 May, 2009
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Next-generation air vehicles with the potential to dramatically reduce inter-continental travel times are now one step closer to reality with the successful completion of preliminary hypersonic flight trials at the Woomera Test Range.

Test vehicle launch as part of hypersonics trial at Woomera, South Australia, 7 May 2009.
Test vehicle launch as part of hypersonics trial at Woomera, South Australia, 7 May 2009.

The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, the Hon. Warren Snowdon MP, today congratulated the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on the results of their recent joint hypersonic flight trial.

“Hypersonics is the study of flight exceeding approximately five times the speed of sound, and this trial has successfully tested the flight and mission control systems that will be used in future experiments,” Mr Snowdon said.

“Using nitrogen gas valves as thrusters to manoeuvre the test vehicle in space, the test vehicle was turned onto the correct heading and elevation for re-entry into the atmosphere as designed.

“This trial has given scientists a wealth of new data and demonstrated that hypersonic flight could become a reality in the not too distant future, offering immense economic and strategic benefits for Australia,” he said.

The Woomera flight was the first in a series of up to ten planned flight experiments under a joint research program between DSTO and the US Air Force. The program, called the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE), is investigating the fundamental science of hypersonics technology and its potential for next generation aeronautics.

“Hypersonic technology offers a quantum leap in speed and fuel efficiency for air vehicles of the future,” Mr Snowdon said.

“Thanks to the work of this dedicated team of DSTO scientists, Australia is at the forefront of this technology.”

Mr Snowdon said the HIFiRE collaboration had already achieved some significant milestones such as the design, assembly and pre-flight testing of hypersonic vehicles and the design of complex avionics and flight systems.



Media note:

Still imagery of the test flight is available at:
Pull vision will be available through SBS Television at the Parliament House Press Gallery.

Media contacts:

Kate Sieper (Warren Snowdon):              02 6277 7620 or 0488 484 689
Defence Media Liaison:                     02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) is part of Australia's Department of Defence. DSTO's role is to ensure the expert, impartial and innovative application of science and technology to the defence of Australia and its national interests.

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