Kratos, the American company behind the development of the XQ-58 Valkyrie combat drone, has signed an agreement with Hypersonix Launch Systems, an Australian company working on an engine for hypersonic vehicles.
The companies will collaborate on the DART AE, a multi-mission hypersonic drone demonstrator capable of flying over Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.
The DART AE will be fully 3D printed and use a hydrogen-powered Spartan scramjet engine developed by Hypersonix and capable of speeds up to Mach 12.
It will also feature a booster stage built by Kratos. This will accelerate the drone to Mach 5, allowing for the scramjet, which does not work at slow speeds, to start.
“Kratos is excited to team up with Hypersonix on this innovative project and we look forward to supporting their development and the integration and flight of this truly disruptive and enabling Australian technology. DART AE is an ideal opportunity for Kratos to further showcase our extensive hypersonic launch system capability,” David Carter, President of Kratos Defense Rocket & Support Services Division, said in a company press release.
The drone is scheduled to make its maiden flight in 2023.
In March 2021, Hypersonix partnered with Boeing to work on the development of the Spartan engine. It plans to build several designs of hypersonic vehicles, including ones capable of orbital flight.
While Kratos is best known for its loyal wingman drones, this is not the company’s first hypersonic project. In July 2021 it was contracted by the US Navy to build a hypersonic test vehicle.