Hypersonix and the scramjet making (shock) waves

Stuart Mason

Earlier this year, a homegrown Australian company beat out more than 60 global competitors to win a major US government contract.

Hypersonix Launch Systems was selected for the Hypersonic and High-Cadence Airborne Testing Capabilities program, run by the Defence Innovation Unit that forms part of the US Department of Defense.

As part of the contract, which could lead to production contracts worth up to $US500 million, the Brisbane-based company will develop a high-speed aircraft to test its hypersonic technologies.

The contract marked a major step in Hypersonix’s journey and significant validation for its near-four year journey of commercialising its scramjet technology.

Hypersonix co-founder and managing director David Waterhouse

A scramjet is an engine designed to reach speeds beyond Mach 6, mixing fuel into air flowing through it at supersonic speeds for the use in hypersonic aircraft.

Hypersonix’s scramjet engine has no moving parts, is self-igniting, hydrogen-powered, and 3D-printed, meaning it is reusable and can reach speeds of up to Mach 12 and be turned off and on at will.

Hypersonix Launch Systems is a finalist in the InnovationAus 2023 Awards for Excellence in the Defence, Dual-Use Technology and Space category. You can secure your tickets for the black-tie event here.

The company was founded by Dr Michael Smart in December 2019, after he previously worked as a research scientist at the Hypersonic Airbreathing Propulsion Branch of NASA’s Langley Research Center.

Smart previously graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, and received a PhD from Polytechnic University in New York in 1995.

Hypersonix landed a near-$1 million Accelerating Commercialisation grant and went on to win an $8 million Modern Manufacturing Initiative grant in 2022 to develop a flight-ready hypersonic drone.

The company’s SPARTAN scramjet engine uses hydrogen for fuel and atmospheric air as an oxidiser, making it environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Hypersonix is a perfect example of a local innovation with wide-ranging potential as a dual-use technology. With initial funding and development focused on the defence sector, the company has a longer term aim to provide better access to green aerospace technologies and systems.

It also has potential applications in the airline industry, with its hypersonic technologies offering a future where a flight from Sydney to New York could take just two and a half hours.

Hypersonix Launch Systems holds two Australian innovation patents it was awarded in 2020, and a US patent received in April 2023.

The InnovationAus 2023 Awards for Excellence are proudly supported by Investment NSW, AusIndustry, Australian Computer Society, Technology Council of Australia, Agile Digital, CSIRO, TechnologyOne, IP Australia, METS Ignited and Q-CTRL. You can book your seat – or book a table – for these awards right here.

The finalists for the all of the InnovationAus Awards for Excellence are an incredible set of companies. Have your say in which of these innovators becomes the People’s Choice.

Reserve your place at the InnovationAus 2023 Awards for Excellence black-tie dinner by clicking here.

Protecting your great ideas with intellectual property (IP) rights can lead to lasting benefits for your growing business. IP refers to creations of the mind, such as a brand, logo, invention, design or artistic work. Head to the IP Australia website to find out more about IP, and how it might help your business.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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