Research Highlights Future Hypersonic Flight Challenges

The two-stage light gas gun was used in a new study focusing on the conditions of hypersonic flight. (Courtesy of Southwest Research Institute)

Southwest Research Institute engineers are conducting tests that elucidate the conditions a future aircraft may experience traveling faster than 10 times the speed of sound. Because that environment is so unique, recreating realistic flight conditions to test vehicles for hypersonic flight is a challenge.

Wind tunnels can match some of the conditions but don’t replicate the chemical effects that a hypersonic vehicle would experience in the real flight environment. So, engineers utilized SwRI’s two-stage light gas gun system to propel objects at speeds from Mach 10 to 15 to study how the hypersonic flight conditions would affect a variety of materials and geometries.