Hypersonics and Directed Energy

Five Times Faster than the Speed of Sound

In aerodynamics, hypersonic speed greatly exceeds the speed of sound. On the ground, sound waves travel at around 340 metres per second. Any faster than this is supersonic, and five or more times faster is hypersonic. Unlike supersonic flow, with a hypersonic flow there is no sound barrier that is broken. As a vehicle moves faster and faster, the heat transfer of the flow starts to become important as the kinetic energy of the object converts to heat in the surrounding gases. 

In the natural world, objects such as meteors and asteroids move through the Earth’s atmosphere hypersonically. Space shuttles and other space vehicles that we send to other planets, like the Mars Pathfinder-type probes, are man-made hypersonic vehicles. There have also been attempts to build aircraft that fly at hypersonic speeds here on Earth.  

Hypersonic Vehicle Structures 

Developing, validating and testing structural designs, components and materials to operate in the extremes of hypersonic flight. 

Competitive advantage 

  • Unique in-house expertise in the design and testing of aerostructures to withstand the extreme conditions experienced by a vehicle during hypersonic flight 
  • Expertise extends to both the development of numerical tools as well as the experimental methods to predict and measure the performance of structures, sub-components and materials exposed to hypersonic flight conditions 
  • Measurement and test technologies cover both ground-based measurements and in-flight measurements 

Impact 

  • Test and prediction technologies enable the increase in TRL of structural designs, sub-components and high temperature materials by exposing them dynamically to the thermal-structural conditions representative of hypersonic flight. This leads to the optimisation of vehicle designs and reduction in the requirement for expensive flight testing 

Successful applications 

  • Expertise and technology has been successfully applied to the design and evaluation of aerostructures and subcomponents for the HyCAUSE (DARPA/AFRL/Defence Science and Technology (DST)), SCRAMSPACE (UQ-led consortium) vehicles and the onboard measurement of thermal-structural performance in-flight under the HIFiRE (DST/AFRL) and HEXA 

Hypersonic Control 

Testing and analysing the performance of control methods and algorithms in flow conditions that are representative of hypersonic flight. 

Competitive advantage 

  • Technologies developed are used to test robust control algorithms on representative configurations in hypersonic flows 
  • Test technologies cover both “algorithm-in-the-loop” testing in wind tunnels as well as “software-in-the-loop” testing via numerical simulation 
  • Technologies can be applied to evaluate novel actuation methods such as fluidic control and fluidic thrust vectoring 

Impact 

  • Test methodologies enable a steady progression through Technology Readiness Levels of both control algorithms and control actuation approaches by testing them dynamically in flow conditions representative of hypersonic flight 

Successful applications 

  • Development of technologies to test both control methodologies and control actuation approaches; supported by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and BAE Systems 

Capabilities and facilities 

  • High-speed wind tunnels including T-ADFA and the Supersonic Nozzle Test Facility 
  • Partner facilities at USQ and HDT at the University of Oxford 
  • Commercial and in-house numerical codes are utilised to predict the transient performance of control approaches and to optimise their design 

Hypersonic Aerodynamics 

Reducing the risk of high-speed flight testing and development through the application of scaled, dynamic free-flight testing in wind tunnels. 

Competitive advantage 

  • Pioneering the use of highly-instrumented, low-inertia, dynamically-scaled, rapidly-prototyped, models with on-board instrumentation for free-flight testing in hypersonic conditions in ground-based test facilities 
  • Measurement of the aerodynamic derivatives of a design across a range of attitudes in a single experimental run using a unique combination of on-board instrumentation, including miniature inertial measurement units, in tandem with high-speed video tracking. This technique offers the unique ability to quickly validate numerically-derived aerodynamic databases using a small number of wind tunnel experiments 
  • Ability to investigate high-speed separations including multi-stage separation and stores release and to quantify the associated multi-body aerodynamics 

Impact 

  • Tunnel-based, free-flight testing helps to reduce the requirement and risks associated with expensive flight testing of high-speed vehicle designs and configurations. Tunnel-based free-flight testing allows for assessing the accuracy of numerical designs and identifying unforeseen issues using ground-based test facilities. Changes to geometric design, mass distribution and separation approach can be rapidly asse 

Hypersonic Inlet Sensor 

High-speed Mach number and angle of attack sensor for hypersonic vehicles. 

Competitive advantage 

  • Specifically designed for sensing applications in hypersonic flight 
  • The device is capable of measuring temperature, Mach number, speed and angle of attack for hypersonic vehicles 
  • Spin-off technology has been patented as an air-speed sensor for subsonic vehicles 
  • More stealthy and faster response rate than pitot tubes, and able to be used from subsonic to hypersonic flight domains 
  • Not as susceptible to icing as standard pitot tubes 

Impact 

  • Enhanced control of hypersonic vehicles 
  • Replacement for pitot tubes in subsonic aircraft and large UAVs 

Successful applications 

  • Flight test associated with the Australian Space Research Program “Scramspace” 
  • Measured under 20 g acceleration conditions in flight 
  • Subject to obtaining an export licence, a proposed flight test with the Korean Aerospace Research Organisation KAIST 
  • Funding from the US Air Force 

Capabilities and facilities 

  • In-house development of all optics, electronics and communications technologies  

Hypersonic Flowfield Measurements 

World leading laser flow diagnostics. 

Competitive advantage 

  • Unique combination of state-of-the-art shock tunnel for generating hypersonic flows and laser-based diagnostics for making precision measurements in those flows 
  • Wide range of laser-based measurement technologies, including laser-induced fluorescence diode laser absorption spectroscopy and resonantly-enhanced shearing interferometry 

Impact 

  • Design of more efficient hypersonic vehicles 
  • Improved understanding of aerothermodynamic heating and drag characteristics of hypersonic vehicles 
  • Testing validity of computational models 

Successful applications 

  • Produced the world’s first two-dimensional velocity maps in hypersonic separated flows 
  • Density measurements 100 times more sensitive than existing technologies 
  • Fastest scanning temperature measurement technology currently in existence (1.6 million temperature measurements per second) 
  • International collaboration in comparison of state-of-the-art computational methods 
  • Multiple funding streams including US Air Force programs 

Capabilities and facilities 

  • T-ADFA free-piston shock tunnel 
  • YAG-pumped dye laser system 
  • Diode laser absorption spectroscopy system 

Get in touch for more information regarding UNSW defence research capabilities.

Contact us