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Scientists conduct second Hifire test over Woomera

Mon Mar 22 20:50:37 EST 2010
Mon Mar 22 09:50:37 UTC 2010
FED: Scientists conduct second Hifire test over Woomera

CANBERRA, March 22 AAP - Australian and American scientists have successfully flown an unmanned test aircraft at more five-and-a-half times the speed of sound over the South Australian outback.

Minister for Defence Science Greg Combet said this was the second in a series of up to 10 planned flight experiments under a joint research program between the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and US Air Force Research Laboratory at the Woomera test range.

"Today's flight represents a significant scientific milestone, enabling scientists to collect fundamental data critical to the design and development of an engine capable of sustained hypersonic flight," he said in a statement.

Hypersonic flight is flight through the atmosphere at speeds above Mach 5.5, or in excess of five times the speed of sound.

The program, called the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation (HIFiRE), is investigating the fundamental science of hypersonics technology and its potential for next generation aeronautical systems.

Mr Combet said the research was directed at the air vehicle and propulsion technologies critical to the realisation of sustained hypersonic flight.

He said Australia was at the forefront of this research, which had the potential to revolutionise global air travel and provide cost-effective access to space.

That could give Australia the ability to launch satellites economically for communication purposes, he said.

"The continued collaboration between DSTO and the US Air Force Research Laboratory will help expedite the development of hypersonics technology and the potential for high-speed flights in the future," he said.

The first HIFiRE test was conducted in May last year.

Under the program, the test vehicle is carried some 200 kilometres into the atmosphere aboard a rocket launched from Woomera.

It then dives back into the atmosphere at high speed to test the hypersonic flight technology.