Aerojet Rocketdyne has been contracted to support the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) propulsion system development programme.
The contract requires the company to develop and test a propulsion system as part of DARPA’s advanced full range engine (AFRE) programme.
The AFRE programme seeks to develop and demonstrate a reusable hydrocarbon propulsion system that can operate over a full range of speeds, ranging from low-speed take-off through to hypersonic flight.
It is aimed at exploring a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) engine concept that would use a turbine engine for low-speed operations and a dual-mode ramjet for high-speed operations.
The systems operating at hypersonic speeds are believed to offer the potential for military operations from longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared to current military systems.
Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president Eileen Drake said: “Through the AFRE programme, we aim to mature the design and component technologies and bring them together to conduct a full system-level turbine based combined cycle (TBCC) ground test demonstration.
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“Developing propulsion technologies capable of operating at subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic speeds would enable us to build future generations of high-speed military aircraft to ensure air dominance.”
In September, DARPA awarded a $21.4m contract to Alliant Techsystems Operations (Orbital ATK) to carry out a research project under the AFRE programme.
Upon completion of ground-based testing, the full-scale, integrated technology demonstration system will undergo flight testing.