HRL is Developing a New Material for Hypersonic Vehicles

HRL Laboratories, LLC announced today that it will be developing new materials for hypersonic vehicles under the Materials Development for Platforms (MDP) program through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). These new materials aim to reduce the weight and cost of vehicle aeroshells while withstanding the extreme environment encountered during hypersonic flight.

Currently, the applied material development sequence takes 10+ years. This is out of step with vehicle programs with much shorter design cycles, limiting new aerospace platforms from using new materials until they are proven. The goal of the MDP program is to connect designers and material developers better and compress this development process to 2.5 years, using a hypersonic vehicle’s aerodynamic outer shell as the initial test case (source DARPA). Traveling through air at more than five times the speed of sound, these vehicles experience exterior temperatures in excess of several thousand degrees Fahrenheit, pushing heritage materials to their extreme thermal, chemical and mechanical limits.

Led by Dr. Tobias Schaedler, HRL’s team aims to combine innovative additive manufacturing techniques with new high temperature materials. HRL’s approach will take advantage of the versatility of polymer-derived ceramics and the mechanical efficiency of optimized sandwich panel architectures to develop groundbreaking ceramic sandwich structures.  “Sandwich panels are used throughout the aerospace industry for lightweight, load-bearing structures, but their use in high temperature applications has been limited by the availability of structurally robust high-temperature cores and scalable fabrication techniques. Our goal is to solve these challenges and develop ceramic sandwich structures that enable weight savings across a wide range of high temperature applications” says Dr. Schaedler.

This program continues HRL’s broad portfolio of materials development contracts with the government: Atoms to Products (A2P) Solider Protection Systems (SPS), Materials with Controlled Microstructural Architecture (MCMA), and new materials for hydrogen storage.

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HRL Laboratories, LLC, Malibu, California ( is a corporate research-and-development laboratory owned by The Boeing Company and General Motors specializing in research into sensors and materials, information and systems sciences, applied electromagnetics, and microelectronics. HRL provides custom research and development and performs additional R&D contract services for its LLC member companies, the U.S. government, and other commercial companies.

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