Exquadrum-Dynetics Achieve Successful Final Full-Scale OpFires Rocket Test

Exquadrum successfully completed its second and final hot-fire test of the revolutionary new rocket being developed to accomplish the DARPA Operational Fires (OpFires) advanced hypersonic weapon system mission objectives.

The technology maturation event demonstrated Exquadrum’s innovative rocket propulsion system at full-scale and for full-duration at the company’s FORGE Rocket Test Facility at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California.

This test is the culmination of Phase 2 of the company’s $15.1 million prime contract, which was awarded to Exquadrum in September 2018. The team of Exquadrum and Dynetics worked jointly to develop the second stage of the OpFires weapon system.

Exquadrum Rocket Test
Exquadrum Rocket Test

“Exquadrum and our partner, Dynetics, are grateful to DARPA for providing us the opportunity to take a highly innovative propulsion technology from idea to full-scale with many of the key components in their flight-like configuration,” said Kevin E. Mahaffy, Chief Executive Officer of Exquadrum. “This technology is now ready to transition to a host of advanced flight applications from hypersonics to traditional rocket booster systems.”

The full-scale, full-duration test program demonstrated all critical aspects of Exquadrum’s new rocket technology and provided key engineering data for future designs. Exquadrum’s unique liquid augmented solid motor has a wide range of throttleabilty and energy management capability, which proved ideal for the OpFires mission objectives. These same rocket characteristics are beneficial for a variety of hypersonic weapons, missile defense, and space lift applications.

“This intensive nineteen-month development program has resulted in a detailed propulsion system design with the demonstrated experimental results, proving this innovative technology can meet hypersonic weapons system requirements. We are looking ahead to applying this technology to both space and weapon systems,” said Kim Doering, Dynetics Vice President of Space Systems.

Both companies have previously supported DARPA on technology advancement projects. Exquadrum was a prime on the Force Application and Launch from Continental U.S. (FALCON) program. Dynetics was selected as the final performer for Gremlins, an aerial launch and recovery of low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial systems (UAS) demonstration program. Additionally, Dynetics is a prime contractor for the Mobile Force Protection program.

DARPA OpFires Program

DARPA’s OpFires program aims to develop and demonstrate a novel ground-launched missile system equipped with hypersonic tactical boost glide vehicle that can penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time-sensitive targets in contested environments.

DARPA/U.S. Army Operational Fires (OpFires) program
The joint DARPA/U.S. Army Operational Fires (OpFires) program seeks to develop innovative propulsion solutions that will enable a mobile, ground-launched tactical weapons delivery system capable of carrying a variety of payloads to a variety of ranges. DARPA Photo.

The first two phases of the program focus on the propulsion technologies required to deliver diverse payloads a variety of ranges.

Phase 1 of the program was a 12-month effort focused on early development and demonstration of booster solutions that provide variable thrust propulsion across robust operational parameters in large tactical missiles. The Phase 1 contracts were awarded to Aerojet Rocketdyne, Exquadrum, and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) in 2018.

Since the Phase 1 contract award, the three companies have made critical discoveries in advanced rocket motor technology for the OpFires upper stage, completing more than 30 motor trials from subscale through full size. These advances put the program on track for booster critical design review in late 2020.

Exquadrum completed a full-scale, full-duration test fire on Sept. 19, 2019, which marked the performer’s culminating event for OpFires Phase 1. SNC completed its Phase 1 testing in October, and Aerojet Rocketdyne completed six subscale tests in August.

The OpFires program reached a major program milestone in late 2019 with the completion of the booster preliminary design review of the two-stage tactical missile system. Phase 2 of the OpFires program will mature designs and demonstrate performance with hot/static fire tests targeted for late 2020.

Phase 3 of the OpFires program will focus on weapon system integration and aims to develop an operational system design leveraging propulsion systems concepts developed under the first two phases of the program. Phase 3 will conclude with integrated end-to-end flight tests scheduled to begin in 2022.

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