Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, working in partnership, have successfully flown a hypersonic missile prototype for the second time in eleven months.
For the latest test, the HAWC prototype was carried under the wing of an aircraft and flown to high altitude, where it was released. A solid rocket booster then accelerated the vehicle to supersonic speed and a scramjet ignited. An engine without moving parts, a scramjet uses its forward motion to compress the incoming air into a shockwave that burns with fuel, producing enough thrust to propel the missile to over five times the speed of sound.
The latest prototype had only minor modifications from the previous flight and met all of its objectives. The data recovered by telemetry will be used to improve the digital models using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data, which will increase the efficiency and performance as the weapon concept comes closer to practical deployment.
As this is a military project, not many details about the prototype were released, such as its size, speed, design.etc. One shouldn’t even trust the illustrations of the missile, provided by Northrop Grumman. Each shows the missile with a rounded lifting body shape on its bottom side, likely to protect and guide it on its re-entry, but there is no guarantee the illustrations’ shape matches that of the real missile.
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