Hypersonics

Hypersonics

Ushering in a new era for faster, more survivable, highly capable weapons

hypersonic missile flying above the clouds

US Air Force Selects Raytheon Missiles & Defense, Northrop Grumman to Deliver First Hypersonic Air-Breathing Missile

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Contractor derived image

rendering of missile inflight

Hypersonics Strike

Flying faster than a mile a second, facing scorching 2,000°F temperatures, all while maneuvering throughout flight, hypersonic missiles test the limits of possible.

We’re at the forefront of innovation, tackling seemingly impossible challenges to help create new classes of strategically important propulsion systems for our nation. With industry leading ramjets, scramjets and boosters, advanced materials, and full life-cycle development, we are leading the way for faster, more survivable, highly capable hypersonic weapons.

Our Edge

technician using machinery

Testing

The Aerothermal Research and Testing facility tests the capabilities of electronics and equipment at conditions simulating speeds up to Mach 8.

Disruptive Technologies

Advanced materials designed to withstand extreme temperatures, structural and weight requirements of evolving air and space missions.

drawing of rocket motor fuze and warhead

Ground-Up Solutions

We consider each system as a whole and integrate with in-house tip-to-tail expertise.

rendering of missile inflight

Pushing Hypersonics Forward

Hypersonics require careful thermal management; sophisticated power needs and continuing calls for miniaturization.

hands typing on a keyboard with a black gradient on the right side for text overlay

Digital Engineering Tools

Digital modeling equals higher-performance weapons that are developed, tested and fielded faster than ever.

Northrop Grumman Hypersonic Center of Excellence

Facilities and Investments

We are constructing a first-of-its-kind hypersonics capability center in Elkton, Maryland, designed to provide full lifecycle production, from design and development to production and integration for hypersonic propulsion systems.

Hypersonics Capability Center
rendering of a missile and graph

Scramjet Hypersonic Propulsion

Scramjet technology ushers in a new era for faster, more survivable, highly capable weapons. Not only does scramjet propulsion advance speeds greater than Mach 5 and maneuverability never seen before in traditional missiles, but it also leads to a smaller form factor missile while offering more capability. This means platforms can carry more weapons in less space.

Air-Breathing
By using high vehicle speed combined with fuel to generate thrust from captured air, the weapon’s range is significantly and efficiently extended.

Speed
The propulsion system sustains speeds of Mach 5 or greater, more than a mile per second, to address time-critical targets.

Maneuverability
Maneuvering at high speeds makes the weapon system hard to defeat.

Extreme Temps
Despite traveling at hypersonic speeds, advanced materials and thermal protection systems allow the system to operate in extreme temperature environments for long flight durations.

Small Form Factor
Packaged in a smaller form factor enables greater weapon quantities to be carried on platforms—from air, land and sea.

Scramjet Infographic News Release: Read More >
missile moving through space at a high-rate of speed

Hypersonic Boost Glide Propulsion

Hypersonic boost glide propulsion vehicles briefly exit and reenter the atmosphere, then glide and maneuver at hypersonic speeds to their targets – a combination that makes them extremely difficult to track and very effective as fast-attack weapons.

bomb exploding

Fuzes and Warheads

Building on our expertise as the only company to integrate both fuzes and warheads, Northrop Grumman’s warhead system is efficiently designed in a smaller package to support extended range and speed of the propulsion system.

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Rendering of counter hypersonics

Counter Hypersonics

Protecting the homeland and our regional forces against hypersonic capabilities from peer adversaries through detection, tracking and defensive technologies.

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Celebrating 71 Years of Advanced Propulsion

sunrise from space

2020s

 Northrop Grumman Hypersonic Center of Excellence
Photo credit: Northrop Grumman

2022: Second flight of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) scramjet.


2022: DARPA’s OpFires hypersonic missile program successfully demonstrated a new mobile ground-launch system using common military logistics vehicles with a Northrop Grumman rocket motor.


2021: Groundbreaking for the new Hypersonics Capability Center at Elkton, Maryland, setting the stage for the future.


2021: First flight of the DARPA HAWC scramjet.


2020s

2010s

peole working on scramjet hypersonics
Photo credit: Northrop Grumman

2018: First test of platform scale (10X) scramjet engine at greater than Mach 4 conditions.


2017: First 15-minute continuous firing of a flightweight scramjet combustor.


2015: First test of additively manufactured Northrop Grumman scramjet combustor.


2010s

2000s

nasa hypersonic jet
Photo credit: NASA

2007: First freejet test of Northrop Grumman missile scale scramjet.


GASL (a legacy Northrop Grumman company) develops low-cost scramjet flight test technique and demonstrates it with Mach 6 flight program.


GASL demonstrates gun-launched scramjet flight testing at Mach 8.


2004: The X-43 sets a scramjet speed record at Mach 9.3 using a Northrop Grumman engine.


2003–2005: NASA selects GASL as prime contractor for the NASA X-43C follow-on program.


2000s

1990s

propulsion hover test
Photo credit: Northrop Grumman archives

1993: The first solid propulsion hover test is completed on the Lightweight Exo-atmospheric Projectile (LEAP) program on a kill vehicle.


1990s

1980s

Space ship above earth
Photo Illustration credit: NASA

1985: As a key participant on the X-30 National AeroSpace Plane (NASP) program, GASL is designated “Government Associate Contractor” for the NASP Technology Maturation program.


1980s

1970s

scramjet parametric engine
Photo credit: Northrop Grumman archives

GASL collaborates with NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) to continue development of scramjet technology with the “parametric engine.”


1970s

1960s

model of first ramjet
Photo credit: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman supports the Titan II missile with the Stage 2 retro and reentry vehicle vernier motors (STAR 13–class motor); the Titan retro will stay in production for more than 43 years.


GASL performs first shock tunnel tests of hypersonic combustion and builds earliest-known scramjet test complex on Long Island.


Dr. Antonio Ferri designs the first successful scramjet engine; it is tested at GASL in 1961–1964 timeframe under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).


1960s

1950s

Tomahawk Sounding Rocket
Photo credit: NASA

1958: First Discoverer motors are fired in space and Project Mercury begins.


Cajun begins work on sounding rockets followed by Apache, Iroquois, Tomahawk, Sandhawk, Cherokee, and Yardbird.


Project Farside reaches an altitude of 1000 miles in 1957.


Falcon becomes Thiokol’s (a legacy Northrop Grumman company) first production program; more than 10,000 are produced at Northrop Grumman.


1955: Northrop Grumman begins work on Recruit for X-17 flights.


1951: Northrop Grumman’s Maryland facility is reactivated, with approximately 20 employees by 1953, to develop ammonium nitrate jet-assisted take-off (JATO) propellants and motors with the Air Force.


1950s

Media Contact

Kailen Brant
443-465-8963