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LI firm wins DOD contract for hypersonic aircraft engine

Innoveering's Ronkonkoma facility develops components, materials, sensors and

Innoveering's Ronkonkoma facility develops components, materials, sensors and control systems for dual-mode ramjet engines and hypersonic vehicles. Credit: Innoveering LLC

Innoveering LLC, based in Ronkonkoma, has won a U.S. Defense Department contract to share $10 million toward development of a dual-mode ramjet engine that could be used to power hypersonic aircraft.

Hypersonic aircraft, which can fly at more than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), have been a dream of engineers for decades, but technical issues have stalled their adoption.

The contract will be shared with Alliant Techsystems Operations, a Northrop Grumman Corp. unit based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Robert Bakos, co-founder and principal at Innoveering, said in an email that the division of tasks assigned by the Air Force will determine how the funding will be split up.

The contract, which allocated fiscal 2019 funds of $224,764, calls for the companies to "mature" a preliminary dual-mode ramjet design and conduct testing at both locations.

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, contracted for the work.

A ramjet has no moving parts. It directs air flowing at high speed into an inlet and ignites it with small amounts of fuel. Ramjets must be accelerated to high speeds, around Mach 3, and then can operate efficiently up to Mach 5.

A dual-mode engine, however, can change its geometry to operate as a scramjet. Unlike a ramjet, whose engine slows the internal airflow to subsonic speeds, a scramjet allows a supersonic airflow through its engine. Scramjets can reach hypersonic speeds, exceeding Mach 5.

Bakos said that a turbine jet could be added to a dual-mode ramjet design, allowing the craft to land on a conventional runway.

The United States, Russia and China have been racing to develop missiles and artillery shells that travel at hypersonic speeds. Last year Boeing unveiled a concept for a commercial airliner with a dual-mode ramjet.

Innoveering, founded in 2012, has 29 employees.

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