Raytheon is trialling missiles that will fly at new speeds for the US defence forces.
With Russia and China also developing hypersonic systems, the US has responded with its own hypersonic flight program to defeat other hypersonic vehicles.
Part of a $63 million contract between Raytheon, the US Air Force and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Tactical Boost Glide hypersonic flight program will look into how to project missiles at above Mach 5.
To achieve this, the US defence contractor will investigate how to create materials that can withstand extremely high temperatures, caused by friction as the object moves through the atmosphere.
Other issues are present in the field of aerodynamics, which at such speeds differ from conventional aircraft or missiles. Raytheon notes that these new shapes are being developed for the first time.
Building the future missiles involved advanced design manufacturing facilities, which include a virtual, 3D environment for collaborative engineering and design. To fulfil its contract, Raytheon has built a stand-alone facility at its Tucson, Arizona headquarters with high-power computing to investigate hypersonic systems.
“In order to develop these highly advanced systems, you need the appropriate infrastructure in place and the technical talent to solve the most challenging problems,” said Dr Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president.
The technology so far has led to a boost rocket system, where by a rocket with a payload accelerates to high speeds, before the payload separates from the rocket and glides unpowered to its destination.