Headquarters, Washington, DC
Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA
MicroCraft, Inc. Tullahoma, TN
(Phone: 615/455-2617 x235)
RELEASE No. 97-020 (HQ RELEASE: 97-53)
NASA SELECTS MICROCRAFT, INC. TEAM TO FABRICATE HYPERSONIC
NASA has selected a team led by MicroCraft, Inc., Tullahoma, TN,
to fabricate a series of small, unpiloted experimental vehicles
that will fly up to 10 times the speed of sound. The five-year
project, known as Hyper-X, will
demonstrate hypersonic propulsion technologies.
When the Hyper-X flies, it will be the first time a non-rocket
engine has powered a vehicle in flight at hypersonic speeds --
speeds above Mach 5, equivalent to about one mile per second or
approximately 3,600 miles per hour at sea level. A booster rocket
will carry each experimental vehicle to its flight-test speed and
altitude, where it will be launched to fly under its own power.
The cost-plus-incentive fee contract is worth an estimated $33.4
million over the next 55 months. It specifies that the first of
four Hyper-X vehicles is to be delivered in time for the first
scheduled flight early in fiscal year 1999.
Team members working with MicroCraft will be Boeing North
American, Inc., Seal Beach, CA; GASL, Inc., Ronkonkoma, NY; and
Accurate Automation Corp., Chattanooga, TN
The Hyper-X project is conducted jointly by the Langley Research
Center, Hampton, VA, and the Dryden Flight Research Center,
Edwards, CA. Langley will manage the overall project while Dryden
will conduct the flight tests.
"We're embarking on an ambitious series of Hyper-X flights to
expand the boundaries of aeronautics and develop new technologies
for space access," said Daniel S. Goldin, NASA Administrator. "Most
impressively, these flights will begin less than two years from
now. Under old ways of doing business it might have taken ten years
to reach flight tests."
MicroCraft will be responsible for fabrication and flight-test
support. This will include not only the four research vehicles but
also one research vehicle-to-booster adapter for mating of the
research vehicles to the nose of an expendable booster rocket. Each
vehicle will be approximately 12 feet long with a wing span of
about five feet.
"We are ready to prove this technology -- to be the first to fly
an air-breathing vehicle at hypersonic speeds," said NASA Langley's
Vince Rausch, the Hyper-X project manager.
Program managers plan to demonstrate hydrogen-powered,
"air-breathing" propulsion systems that could ultimately be applied
in vehicle types ranging from hypersonic aircraft to reusable space
A rocket carries its own oxygen for combustion. An air-breathing
vehicle, the experimental Hyper-X, will burn oxygen in the air
scooped from the atmosphere. Because of this, air-breathing
hypersonic vehicles should carry more payload and/or offer longer
range than equivalent rocket-powered systems.
Four flights are planned -- one each at Mach 5 and 7 and two at
Mach 10. The Mach 7 flight comes first. The flight tests will be
conducted within the Western Test Range off the coast of southern
Hyper-X vehicle will ride on the first stage of an
Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, VA, booster rocket, which will be
launched by the Dryden B-52. For each flight, the booster will
accelerate the Hyper-X research vehicle to the test conditions
(Mach 5, 7 or 10) at approximately 100,000 feet. There, it will
separate from the booster and fly under its own power and
Ground tests and analyses of both vehicle and engine will be
performed prior to each flight in order to compare flight and
ground-test results. In addition, the Hyper-X Mach 7 and 5 vehicles
will be tested prior to flight in Langley's 8-Foot High Temperature
Wind Tunnel. The vehicles, with a fully operating ramjet/scramjet
propulsion system, will be put through tests in the tunnel
simulating many, but not all, Mach 7 and 5 flight conditions.
A ramjet operates by subsonic combustion of fuel in a stream of
air compressed by the forward speed of the vehicle itself. In a
conventional jet engine, the compressor section (the fan blades)
compresses the air.
A scramjet (supersonic-combustion ramjet) is a ramjet engine in
which the airflow through the whole engine remains supersonic.
Scramjet technology is challenging because only limited testing can
be performed in ground facilities. Hyper-X takes the next essential
step in developing hypersonic, air-breathing technology.
Images of the Hyper-X vehicles and additional information can be
obtained at the following URLs:
B-52 Drop illustration
NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos to accompany this release are
available by calling the Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, or
the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA, at the numbers
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text-only version of this release