Lockheed Martin Receives Hypersonics Challenge Project Award from LIFT, Department of Defense

Initiative to improve cost competitiveness and quality of high-temperature capable hypersonics components.

DETROIT – LIFT, the Detroit-based Department of Defense manufacturing innovation institute, along with the Department of Defense (DoD), today announced their awarding of one of the institute’s Hypersonics Challenge projects to improve the cost competitiveness and quality of high-temperature capable hypersonic components.

The project, in partnership with the DoD, LIFT and LIFT members Velo3D, Inc., Vibrant Corporation and the University of Arizona, will evaluate and demonstrate the industrial maturity of emerging in-situ process monitoring capability in the latest generation of laser powder-bed fusion (LPBF) additive systems, rapid post-build Non-Destructive Inspection (NDI) methods, and related Probability of defect Detection (PoD) for flight qualified hypersonic metallic structural applications.

In 2021, LIFT and the DoD Manufacturing Technology Program, overseen by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, announced a nationwide Hypersonics Challenge, seeking proposals on three specific topics critical to the materials science and manufacture process of hypersonic vehicles. The Lockheed Martin-led project is one of several projects awarded through the challenge and will address the challenge topic of investigating “advanced manufacturing methods including, but not limited to, in-situ sensing and non-destructive inspection (NDI) techniques to ensure reliable and repeatable manufacturing of hypersonic components to ensure successful operation.”

Operating at speeds of Mach 5 or higher, hypersonic, and counter-hypersonic vehicles are among the Department of Defense’s top priorities, as well as the development of a safe and secure domestic supply base.

“There are gaps which exist in the in-situ process monitoring, non-destructive inspection and data analytics to ensure components are being produced reliably and repeatably,” said Christina Bain, Senior Manager, Hypersonics and Advanced Materials Directorate, Lockheed Martin Space. “With this project, we will address those gaps by leveraging existing best-in-class capabilities, which exist at the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) level and are ripe from broader use.”

The project will focus on in-situ process monitoring, rapid NDI methods that provide quantitative data for both metrology and material condition, and advanced multi-modality data fusion analytics. The integrated demonstration of these focus areas will reduce program risk and inspection costs associated with time consuming materials characterization based on cut-ups and metrology, enabling optimization and widespread acceptance of LPBF parts in high-performance, high-value DoD platforms.

“Understanding how to reliably and repeatably produce parts is the Holy Grail of any manufacturer,” said Nigel Francis, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, LIFT. “As we work with our federal partners to bring together industry to advance our nation’s work in hypersonics, achieving that level of success is even more critical.”

Project awards were determined by a team consisting of LIFT and the Department of Defense. Decision criteria includes technological merit; technology readiness level (TRL) and manufacturing readiness level (MRL); funding requirements; cost-share commitment; ITAR compliance: and LIFT member engagement.

Last year, LIFT and the DoD announced the first Hypersonics Challenge award to ATC Materials, Inc. to demonstrate the repeatable and reliable production of their RIPS molded radio frequency (RF) material.