Hypersonics Advanced Manufacturing Test Capability (HAMTC)

S²MARTS Project No. 21-13

The Hypersonics Advanced Manufacturing Test Capability (HAMTC) has been awarded to Fiber Materials Inc. (FMI) and Purdue Applied Research Institute, LLC (PARI).

The Department of the Navy (DoN) is seeking prototyping support in the area of Hypersonics Advanced Manufacturing Test Capability (HAMTC).

The Department of Defense (DoD) has entered into the hypersonic missile domain to execute the Warfighter’s mission requirements. As threats and mission requirements continue to evolve, the DoD is constantly looking to improve and upgrade its domestic manufacturing capabilities and industrial base. Partnership with academia and industry will help develop and demonstrate capabilities in key focus areas, supporting transition to military Service programs of record, consistent with the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Adversaries of the U.S. have developed hypersonic weapons capable of traveling five to six times the speed of sound, which reduces response time for defense. The DoD has taken a deterrence approach, with the intent to field hundreds of hypersonic weapons within the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). With an urgent need to develop and field new hypersonic weapon systems has come a demand for test and development capabilities.

The DoD has identified advanced manufacturing of specialty high temperature materials as critical to hypersonic weapon systems.  Hypersonic vehicles are subjected to extreme environments, necessitating robust materials and processing techniques to ensure successful operation. Specialized materials manufacturing and production processes are being developed to manage temperature requirements while maintaining a lightweight and shock absorbent design. Additive Manufacturing (AM) enables construction of complex thin-walled and multi-channeled structures with heat-resistant materials, resulting in cooling passages to reduce engine heat buildup caused by atmospheric friction when flying at high speeds. However, adoption of metal AM in Defense supply chains is limited for hypersonics.  Furthering the development of AM, and exploring its application to hypersonic development programs, would enable shorter lead times, mass customization, energy reduction, complex shapes, and production of parts on demand for legacy and new acquisition hypersonic weapon systems.

To overcome these challenges, DoD has invested in developing new digital computational tools to accelerate the certification of metal AM-built parts. This approach uses machine learning, materials engineering, simulation, and controls to enhance part designs, eliminate defects, and optimize workflows.

High-temperature materials are currently being developed that can withstand extreme temperatures that hypersonic vehicles must endure. These materials remain difficult to construct by conventional means due to limited ductility or high degrees of porosity; furthermore, many developers lack digital tools necessary to optimize design and ensure AM repeatability based on the behavior of these materials. There are currently limited proven methods in production for forming Ultra-High Temperature Ceramics (UHTC) into complex geometries that can withstand extreme conditions for hypersonic flight regimes. Introducing alternate manufacturing capabilities will provide the DoD customer with alternate solutions for UHTC components.

A key technology in enabling strategic hypersonic weapons is high temperature capable carbon fiber reinforced carbon (C/C) and carbon fiber reinforced silicon carbide composites (C-SiC) to deliver differentiated missile and reentry body performance.   This is especially true for multidirectional reinforced composites such as 3D and 4D reinforced composites. Currently there is high demand for polar woven 3D composites to support key hypersonic and strategic missile programs in propulsion and thermal protection system applications.  The current process is very labor intensive, particularly in the densification and weaving processes used to produce these unique materials, as 3D polar woven preforms are only produced by manual weaving.

Currently available 3D woven C/C material, bolstered by a risk-averse environment sustained by a small number of strategic defense programs, are of high quality and extremely high cost. Automation and processing technologies developed for commercial aerospace offer significant potential cost reductions to these advanced materials.

This prototyping project will have two (2) main aspects to it.  The first will be a refined advanced materials manufacturing proof-of-concept for hypersonic vehicle applications for vertical supply chain integration.  State-of-the-art manufacturing for hypersonic technologies that will include increased utilization of digital engineering tools, advanced AM processes, and bonding, joining, and sealing of dissimilar materials will increase the domestic defense industrial base.  The objective of this effort is for the contractor to deliver prototype items using new technical processes, demonstrating cost savings and yield increases.

The second will be a capability to produce and machine 3D C/C materials to enhance and optimize missile performance per Navy requirements. The development of an automation of this process will deliver significant cost savings in preform weaving while also providing capacity to support key DoD programs.