Your Ad Here

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Purdue Wind Tunnel Key For 'Hypersonic Vehicles,' Future Space Planes

By using the only wind tunnel capable of running quietly at "hypersonic" speeds, Purdue University engineers have conducted experiments to yield critical data for designing an advanced aircraft called the X-51A, powered by engines called scramjets.

The X-51A test vehicle is expected to evolve into missiles capable of flying at Mach 6 -- or six times the speed of sound -- enabling them to hit mobile "time-critical" targets.

Scramjets also may propel future military and civilian space planes.

The quiet wind tunnel operation is critical for collecting data to show precisely how air flows over a vehicle's surface in flight. No other wind tunnel runs quietly while conducting experiments in airstreams traveling at Mach 6, says Steven Schneider, an aerospace engineer and professor in Purdue's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

"A quiet wind tunnel yields more accurate data because it more closely simulates flight," he says.

Specifically, engineers need detailed information about how airflow changes from "laminar," or smooth, to turbulent as it speeds over an aircraft's surfaces. The information is essential to properly design vehicles that fly at hypersonic speeds, or faster than Mach 5, nearly 4,000 mph, Schneider says.

The X-51 project is led by the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the vehicle is being built by Pratt & Whitney and the Boeing Co. Purdue engineers are part of a national team of researchers from government, academia and industry handling different aspects of the vehicle.

The Purdue research focuses on the forebody, or front portion of the craft, using a foot-long model for wind-tunnel testing. Research findings are providing information in two vital areas: maintaining the turbulent flow of air into the engine's combustor to keep the scramjet running properly, and increasing the amount of smooth airflow over the vehicle's upper surface to reduce friction and heat that could damage or destroy the vehicle. The higher the Mach number, the greater the friction and heat generated in flight.

Watch more breaking news now on our video feed:

Bookmark and drop back in sometime.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home