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Hypersonic vehicle completes inaugural flight

by 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

10/1/2007 - WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (AFPN)  -- A hypersonic vehicle comprised of five innovative payloads accomplished a successful, six-minute flight during its initial mission Sept. 20 here.

The hypersonic vehicle was designed and developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

Launched on a Navy-supplied rocket, the Re-Entry Structures Experiment, or RESE, reached an altitude of 95,000 feet at Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound, or 3,800 miles per hour), then safely landed in the desert in two pieces more than 21 miles north of its launch point.

Experiments flown during the initial RESE mission included a new acoustic protection system, a reconfigurable hardware architecture for responsive satellites, two thermal sensors, a novel high-temperature material structural test, and a flexible circuitry durability trial.

The acoustic test involved the Hybrid Acoustically Layered Foil Foam, or HALF-Foam, treatment, which lines the rocket structure interior to decrease noise that could damage the launch vehicle's sensitive instruments.

Like the plug-and-play concept featured on desktop computers, the Responsive Space Bus Demonstration, or RSBD, employed a structural design with interfacing processor components for the rapid assembly of satellites to meet evolving mission requirements. 

The two thermal sensors, provided by NASA, monitored hazardous and elevated heat levels impacting the RESE. These systems will be used on the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the planned successor to the space shuttle.

In addition, the high-temperature material durability test included a material that will be used to protect hypersonic vehicles from adverse aerodynamic heating during high-speed flight in the atmosphere.

Finally, a thin, adaptable circuitry experiment was used for assessment in future applications in satellites, aircraft and missiles. The flexible cable architecture has the potential to reduce the mass of aerospace wiring by more than 50 percent.

"I was amazed by the performance and durability of the five experiments considering the intense pressure and force applied to the RESE's two sections during hypersonic flight," said Andy Williams, the RESE program manager. "Its success is a culmination of almost five years of patience, persistence, and progress for a program seeking opportunities to test cutting-edge technology addressing warfighter needs in multiple areas.

"With the initial RESE mission accomplished, our program team can now focus on the goal of conducting another experimental flight, operating at speeds between Mach 10 and 12 (7,600 to 9,120 miles per hour) and occurring next year," Mr. Williams said.

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