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Operational Fires Program Completes Successful Rocket Engine Tests

Tests set stage for delivering payloads over variable distance ranges

DARPA’s Operational Fires (OpFires) program, which is developing and demonstrating new technologies for ground-launched medium-range hypersonic weapons, successfully completed full-scale static test firing of a unique second stage propulsion system. This high-performance, solid-fuel “throttleable” rocket motor can be turned off before burning through all of its fuel, potentially allowing a missile to hit targets located anywhere within a medium-range continuum.

Aerojet Rocketdyne performed the test in May at the Army’s Redstone Test Center as part of their Phase 2 contract and achieved the primary objective of demonstrating the technology that allows on-demand thrust termination. This capability, combined with the booster’s volumetric efficiency, will help advance the realization of hypersonic (greater than five times the speed of sound) missiles that can literally adjust on the fly.

“The completion of the initial second stage booster test firing is an important step towards the goal of an advanced system able to precisely deliver a variety of conventional payloads to targets over a wide range of distances,” said DARPA program manager Lt. Col. Joshua Stults.

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Using advancements in digital engineering design and analysis tools, Aerojet was able to predict motor performance to within one percent of observed results. Such high-fidelity tools, along with data from this and subsequent tests, will be used to complete detailed design of the booster that will be part of missile fabrication, assembly, and flight testing in the OpFires project’s recently initiated Phase 3b.

Source: DARPA
Date: Jun 23, 2021


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