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NEWS | Dec. 15, 2021

NSWC Crane supports DoD to successfully launch three rockets for hypersonic research at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) served as the executing agent for the Department of Defense (DoD) flight test campaign known as High Operational Temp for Hypersonics (H4H). The flight test campaign was jointly planned and funded by the Navy Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program, the Army Hypersonic Program Office (AHPO), and Missile Defense Agency (MDA). The flight test campaign successfully launched three precision sounding rockets on October 20 from National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) launch range at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Scott Wilson, an employee at NSWC Crane, was the Mission Director for the project and says the campaign consisted of 25 hypersonic experiments supporting the DoD. Wilson says the H4H Program speeds up technology and workforce development with increased testing opportunities, accelerates innovation, research, and prototyping, and will result in rapidly improving the U.S. hypersonic capabilities in parallel to full system flight tests.   

“One year to design, build, and test three rockets,” says Wilson. “Six weeks to unpack, assemble, and test them at the flight range. One day to launch them.”

According to a Navy press release, the test “demonstrated advanced hypersonic technologies, capabilities, and prototype systems in a realistic operating environment.”

Several partners ensured a successful launch.  In addition to CPS, AHPO, and MDA, the Joint Hypersonic Transition Office (JHTO) provided funding for some experiments and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) served as the launch vehicle integrator. Also, the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, MITRE, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and several defense contractors participated in the flight test as well by providing payloads.

In addition to Wilson’s role as Mission Director, NSWC Crane had several personnel supporting the flight test. NSWC Crane employees Audrey Duke and Kegan Miller had key roles in supporting overall program planning, resourcing, execution, data reporting, and collaboration between the three stakeholders, numerous payload teams, NASA and Sandia National Laboratories’ vehicle team. The two were recognized for their efforts by the CPS program manager for going above and beyond to support the mission.

Hypersonic weapons are one of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) highest priorities. The Navy’s press release on the launch includes, “Hypersonic weapons, capable of flying at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), are highly maneuverable and operate at varying altitudes. The DoD is working in collaboration with industry, government national laboratories, and academia to field hypersonic warfighting capability in the early-to mid-2020s.”

In October of 2020, the DoD established its Joint Hypersonics Transition Office (JHTO) Systems Engineering Field Activity at NSWC Crane. Through this partnership, the growing suite of government, industry, and academia associated with NSWC Crane can be leveraged to further hypersonics technology. Academic partners include Indiana’s three Tier 1 research universities: Indiana University, Notre Dame University, and Purdue University.

JHTO is headquartered at the Pentagon and is responsible for creating strategies and roadmaps to develop hypersonic technologies and transition them to operational capabilities, for coordinating with foreign allies and partners, and for bolstering the hypersonics workforce. Additionally, JHTO has established a university consortium for applied hypersonics to leverage the nation’s academic community towards hypersonics-related research and workforce development. The Field Activity will coordinate architectures, interfaces, schedules, and plans to transition a modular, affordable, and upgradable hypersonics portfolio of capabilities and technologies.

The Systems Engineering Field Activity at NSWC Crane has three primary focus areas: Systems Engineering, Program Integration, and Workforce Development. Workforce development initiatives include sponsored research, curriculum development, and engagements with industry to create a growing pipeline of highly technical talent to enter the hypersonics workforce.

NSWC Crane has received recent DoD hypersonics awards to advance testing, verification and validation capabilities, including $150 million in unique capabilities such as an underwater launch test complex, a missile technology evaluation facility, an integrated Hardware-in-the-Loop (HWIL) / Software-in-the-Loop (SWIL) test bed, and a Modeling & Simulation lab. NSWC Crane has a team of more than 300 people working to advance hypersonic technologies and accompanying enabling capabilities.

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

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