The Pentagon has awarded Boeing a contract to build one more HyFly hypersonic demonstrator, with the goal of flight testing the vehicle around 2010.
HyFly is a joint effort between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Naval Research activity to validate dual-combustion ramjet missile technology.
The first two test flights ended in failure, but Boeing had more-or-less enough parts around to build a third item and had been in talks for several months with the customers to try once more. The government is now making $18.3 million available to do just that.
Both test failures – one last year and one this year – were unrelated to the core technology the HyFly program was aiming to demonstrate, Boeing’s program manager Carl Avila has said. The first was linked to a software problem and the second to a fluke malfunction of a fuel pump subsystem. The top speed HyFly reached in either test was Mach 3.5, compared to the Mach 6 objective.
During the failed flight-tests, Boeing collected loads of telemetry. The information on hand showed that guidance and navigation subsystems performed as expected, program officials insist. The missile demonstrator in each case also performed the pitch-over maneuver for terminal target attack.
It’s not just about research for the contractor either. The Navy is showing increased interest in a high-speed anti-ship weapon, so success with HyFly could put Boeing in a good position on that front.