4 mins read 24 Jan 2022

Sydney Uni and Hypersonix Building Zero CO2 Space Plane

Brisbane-based Aerospace Engineering start-up Hypersonix are taking another step towards building their Hypersonic Launch Vehicle by signing a Master Research Collaboration Agreement with the University of Sydney to develop a number of flight-critical components.  

The Delta-Velos Hypersonic Launch Vehicle. Credit: Hypersonix.

Hypersonix have teamed up with the University of Sydney (USYD) to investigate the manufacture of a number of critical components required for their hypersonic spaceplane, Delta Velos, signing a Master Research Collaboration Agreement (MRCA). The launch vehicle, which has been designed to fly at speed of up to Mach 10 and will be capable of deploying small satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will be powered by four green hydrogen-fueled scramjet engines, enabling carbon-neutral propulsion. 

Last year Hypersonix signed an agreement with BOC to use locally produced green hydrogen to power their SPARTAN scramjet engines. Green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy sources such as solar or wind, which separates water into its component parts, Oxygen and Hydrogen, using an electrolyser. 

According to the team at USYD the MRCA will support the development of important sovereign capability within additive manufacturing. Using next-generation additive manufacturing technology, the agreement will see the team of researchers from USYD working alongside Hypersonix to conduct research and development of flight-critical components including the spaceplane’s launch system, further developments of the scramjet engine, a number of material components, and the vehicle fuselage.

Sydney Manufacturing Hub

The Hypersonix Team touring the USYD facility. Credit: Hypersonix.

In December last year, USYD launched a /$25 Million facility to drive innovation and foster industrial output. The new Sydney Manufacturing Hub, based at USYD’s Darlington Campus has been developed with Industry 5.0 in mind and will deliver manufacturing focussed research, supporting industry in additive manufacturing and materials processing.  

The new hub will provide capabilities for design, topological optimisation, the 3-D printing of metals, ceramics and polymers, as well as post-processing heat treatment, advanced characterisation and more, paving the way for new technology in industries like aerospace, autonomous vehicles, biomedical, defence, maritime, and robotics. 

The hub was launched in December 2021 by Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney and Minister for Trade and Industry the Hon. Stuart Ayres.

The research team will be led by Professor Simon Ringer, a materials engineer and expert in materials development for additive manufacturing at the University of Sydney, whose team will work alongside Hypersonix Chief Technology Officer Dr Michael Smart.

“We are delighted to be working alongside such an innovative, deep technology company like Hypersonix using advanced 3-D printing processes and world-class additive manufacturing facilities for such an important challenge,” Professor Ringer said.

Hypersonic Materials

The DART AE demonstrator platform is expected to be launched in early 2023. Credit: Hypersonix.

Hypersonix late last year announced plans to develop DART AE, the world’s first 3D print of an entire hypersonic platform in high-temperature alloys. The Dart AE will be part of a series of smaller proof-of-concept launch vehicles and will be powered by a single SPARTAN scramjet engine. 

Entirely made through additive engineering, DART AE is a three-metre-long, single-use, high-temperature alloy, hydrogen-fuelled, scramjet technology demonstrator. It features a mass of 300kg, range of 500km and speed of Mach 7. According to Hypersonix, the vehicle could prove to be more than just a test vehicle with it having the potential to be used as a hypersonic target drone. 

Managing Director David Waterhouse said the company had received a lot of interest for the DART AE project, and would possibly involve the USYD in that project too.  

“We are pleased to have found such 3-D additive engineering facilities in Sydney and are impressed with the capabilities of Simon Ringer’s team,” Mr Waterhouse said.

Hypersonic vehicles, those that travel faster than Mach 5, are simple in their mechanical design (they have no moving parts) but require materials that can withstand the intense heat that flight at these speeds creates. With temperatures reaching in excess of 1000℃ significant materials understanding is required, which is why additive manufacturing techniques are so exciting for this type of vehicle. 

“Additive manufacturing is making the previously impossible, possible. This includes the proposed manufacture of satellite-launching spaceplane components right here at the University of Sydney's Darlington campus, situated in the very heart of Tech Central,” said Professor Ringer.

It is hoped that the demonstrator DART AE will be launched in the first quarter of 2023.