Listed as one of the Department of Defense’s 14 critical technology areas, hypersonics have become a top priority in national defense. The ongoing need for cutting-edge hypersonics technologies is reflected in the department’s $886.3 fiscal year 2024 budget request, which allocates significant funding to continue advancing U.S. progress in hypersonics through development and procurement as well as to bolstering the industrial base.
An endeavor this large requires a strong network of talent, and for the DOD, this means teaming with organizations from across industry and academia – two sectors that continue to play a major role in driving U.S. hypersonics progress. At ExecutiveBiz’s 2023 Hypersonics Forum on August 15, representatives from all three sectors will come together to dive into the current priorities and challenges surrounding DOD hypersonics initiatives as the department ramps up its focus on this increasingly influential technology.
This collaboration journey has already begun. As part of these efforts, the DOD recently funded several related research and development projects with academic institutions. In October 2022, the department issued a three-year, $4.5 million applied research award to the University of Virginia, under which the university and a team of numerous other academic institutions, industry partners, industrial advisors and government agencies are studying the engine design, maneuverability control and operational resiliency of hypersonics technology. Over the course of the project, the team will carry out individual component ground tests to reach the final objective: an integrated scramjet ground test.
In March 2022, the University of Central Florida received an applied research award of $500,00o from the DOD, under which it was responsible for developing new modeling and simulation capabilities to predict the hypersonic environment over multiple trajectories up to Mach 15. Just a month later, Notre Dame was awarded an applied research contract of the same value to apply additive manufacturing methods to build a control array module for hypersonic vehicle designs. Both awards had a performance period of one year.
On the industry side, the Naval Surface Warfare Center issued a contract to a large, Dynetics-led team in October 2022 to help the DOD speed up its hypersonics flight testing efforts. As contractors, the group of more than 20 companies is working to boost the U.S.’ domestic hypersonic flight testing capacity while utilizing several commercial launch vehicles for ride-along hypersonic payloads.
In April 2023, the DOD awarded contracts to General Electronic, Carbon-Carbon Advanced Technologies and Northrop Grumman to bolster U.S. supply chains for hypersonics and strategic systems. Under its contract, GE will work to widen capacity for the manufacturing of high and ultra-high temperature composites and modernizing capital equipment to scale aeroshell production. C-CAT’s responsibilities include creating novel manufacturing capabilities, expanding manufacturing installations and obtaining capital equipment related to carbon-carbon manufacturing, while Northrop Grumman is tasked with broadening domestic capabilities for producing U/HTC for hypersonics and strategic systems through the procurement of several related technologies.