Hypersonic Systems

Scaling up

By Jan Tegler

January 1, 2021

One of the great remaining accomplishments of flight would be creating an operational aircraft that can fly hypersonically, defined as Mach 5 or above, by gleaning oxygen for combustion from the air, just as conventional jets do. The U.S. has tested air-breathing hypersonic engines but not of the size required for aircraft that would carry passengers, weapons or intelligence equipment. Jan Tegler looks at the challenges of scaling up.

Missile gap

By Keith Button

June 1, 2020

The U.S. believes it has made a breakthrough toward closing the gap in hypersonic missile technology it perceives between itself and China and Russia. Some independent observers, however, question whether those countries have, in fact, progressed quite as far as U.S. planners contend. Keith Button spoke to Pentagon officials and independent missile watchers.

3D-printed ceramics

By Keith Button

March 1, 2020

Making a single hypersonic weapon or space launch vehicle is one thing. Mass producing them is quite another. The strong, heat-resistant ceramic components they require are extremely difficult to produce. Keith Button spoke to materials scientists who think they have the solution.

Bad vibrations

January 1, 2020

Designers of hypersonic vehicles need to be confident that unsteady flows around their vehicles won’t produce vibrations that will damage the vehicles or their payloads. Accurately predicting the pressure generated by these unsteady flows and modeling how hard this pressure shakes a vehicle could give U.S. engineers that confidence. Katya Casper of Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico describes her research toward making this a reality.