JULY 28, 2020 — Researchers from UTSA and Southwest Research Institute are working to develop nonintrusive diagnostics for hypersonic flight testing. The project, led by Christopher Combs in the College of Engineering and Nicholas J. Mueschke of SwRI’s Mechanical Engineering Division, is supported by a $125,000 grant from the Connecting through Research Partnerships (CONNECT) program.
“The goal is to ultimately make full aerodynamic measurements in a truly representative hypersonic environment,” Mueschke said. “These measurements will directly contribute to the design of next-generation hypersonic vehicles.”
Hypersonic speed is defined as faster than five times the speed of sound, or greater than Mach 5. When a vehicle is flying that fast, the air moving around a flying object will chemically decompose. Some points behind the shockwave created by the vehicle are hotter than the surface of the sun. This strange chemical environment causes the flight system to heat up and in some instances even melt and chemically react with the air.
Mueschke has researched hypersonic environments extensively at SwRI using the institute’s two-stage light gas gun system, which simulates hypersonic flight conditions and allows researchers to image objects in hypersonic flight.
“When we launch an object at hypersonic speeds, the air around it begins to break down,” Mueschke said. “The molecules in the air, like nitrogen and oxygen, break apart and sometimes form new compounds. The puzzle pieces start rearranging themselves.”
By pointing a laser tuned at just the right wavelength at the air flow around a hypersonic vehicle, certain molecules absorb the light briefly and then emit it in different colors, a process known as laser-induced fluorescence.
“That process helps us understand other things,” Mueschke said. “For example, the molecules take a little while to expel all of that light, and during that time they move a little. If we take image after image of this glowing field of light, we can determine how fast the molecules are moving.”
Determining the velocity of the air around the hypersonic object is significant because so little is known about that true hypersonic flight environment. Intrusive instruments that can measure air velocity are less applicable here because they interfere with the airflow and flight environment.
“We need to find a way to make very detailed measurements of what exactly is going on without getting in the way,” Mueschke said. “For the scale of the objects we’re flying, all the most relevant action is happening within a millimeter of the surface of the object as it’s in motion. Everything we’re looking for is happening in that space.”
From there, Mueschke and Combs hope to measure the environment’s pressure, temperature and density, eventually leading to a truly representative picture of the hypersonic flight environment, which is extremely difficult to measure.
“When we talk hypersonic flight, this generally refers to speeds faster than five times the speed of sound, which is roughly 4,000 mph,” Combs said. “At this speed it would take less than an hour to fly from New York to Los Angeles, and you could get from San Antonio to just about anywhere in the continental U.S. in less than 30 minutes. There’s potential to truly revolutionize how we get from place to place. Add in the fact that all spacecraft return to Earth at hypersonic speeds, along with the obvious defense applications, and you can see why hypersonics is a particularly hot topic right now.”
Mueschke and Combs will make their initial measurements at Combs’ UTSA laboratory, which will soon include a Mach 7 Ludwieg Tube, a facility that can mimic some conditions of hypersonic flight. In later stages the project will move to SwRI’s two-stage light gas gun system, which more closely simulates the hypersonic flight environment.
SwRI’s Executive Office and the UTSA Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise sponsor the CONNECT program, which offers grant opportunities to enhance greater scientific collaboration between the two institutions.
UTSA Main Campus will serve as a designated polling station during the early voting period, today through October 30, and on Election Day, November 3.H-E-B Student Union Ballroom (HSU 1.104)
Alumni who majored in criminology & criminal justice, demography, kinesiology, nutrition & dietetics, psychology, public administration, public health, social work and sociology—you have a new UTSA college to call home. You’re invited to get to know the new college better during HCaP Happy Hour. Each happy hour starts with a brief discussion to introduce you to the work in the featured department before opening to questions, comments and your ideas.Virtual Event
Want to add Adobe programs to your course but you aren’t sure how? Stop by Adobe Office Hours for a casual conversation on how you can implement Adobe in your classroom.VIrtual Event
Gamified courses increase students’ motivation and participation and allow for the capability to reinforce knowledge and skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, persistence, and creativity. In a game-based learning environment, learners are involved in a more challenging, meaningful, empowering, and deep understanding process. Get engaged with us in a playful session about game design in Blackboard Learn.Virtual Event
Join this informative, interactive webinar with practical tips on how to plan your charitable giving now and for the future. Michael Perkins, member of the UTSA Alumni Association and the UTSA College of Business Accounting Advisory Board, is no stranger to gift planning. As managing partner and CEO of Slattery Perkins Ramirez P.C. (“SPR”) his primary areas of focus include counseling business owners, executives, and other high net worth individuals on personal financial issues, including estate planning, wealth transfer, and income tax planning techniques. Michael also practices philanthropy himself – establishing an endowed scholarship at UTSA as well as supporting numerous charitable causes throughout San Antonio.Virtual Event
UTSA Main Campus is a voting poll for Election Day on November 3.H-E-B Student Union Ballroom (HSU 1.104
The University of Texas at San Antonio Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) Annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry Showcase features undergraduate student research and creative endeavors from across the university.VIrtual Event
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.
UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.