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Leidos completes first test launch of Pentagon’s new hypersonic testbed

Illustration: US Air Force graphic

US defense contractor Leidos announced its Dynetics subsidiary successfully completed a large-scale test for the Multi-Service Advanced Capability Hypersonic Test Bed (MACH-TB) program.

The Pentagon program is meant to increase the speed of testing for all commercially available hypersonic systems and also called for the creation of an experimental glide body (EGB) that will allow the team to gather data on and validate performance of hypersonic glide body components.

The inaugural launch took place on June 17 at 9:24 p.m. UTC from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 2 at Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport within NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. R

Rocket Lab was selected by Leidos to provide hypersonic test launch capabilities under the MACH-TB project awarded by Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane through the Strategic and Spectrum Missions Advanced Resilient Trusted Systems (S2MARTS) Other Transaction Authority (OTA) vehicle on behalf of the US Department of Defense.

As part of the MACH-TB program, Dynetics is also working with Kratos Defense, who is leveraging its hypersonic flight testing and launch vehicle experience within Kratos Defense & Rocket Support Services (DRSS) Division.

The MACH-TB project is expected to result in a proof of concept and prototype demonstration of modular experimental glide body testing hypersonic technologies/experimental payloads in operational trajectories using already available boosters. The MACH-TB program will offer the DoD a national hypersonic testing capability to be leveraged by a range of US military hypersonics programs, DoD research programs, industry partners, and stakeholders from academia.

“This successful test has demonstrated first hypersonic insertion of a payload from a commercial launch vehicle and the team is ready to move forward into the next phase of this program,” said Leidos CEO Tom Bell. “It took our MACH-TB team only 45 days to create this innovative technology demonstration, which highlights our ability to deliver on promises.”

“Today marks a significant milestone in our commitment to pushing forward the boundaries of hypersonic innovation,” said Dr. Angie Lewis, NSWC Crane Technical Director. “Our approach will accelerate progress so that the nation has the right capabilities to counter and address the threat landscape today and throughout this decisive decade.”

Leidos said the next phase of the program would expand upon this successful test to develop additional opportunities to increase the US’ cadence of hypersonic flight testing in support of technology maturation.

“This cutting-edge technology has yet to be developed and is breaking new ground for an important and necessary sector of our industry,” concluded Bell. “Leidos is proud to manufacture a test bed that can provide the US with an advantage in the great power competition.”