FEBRUARY 25, 2021 — UTSA’s vision to become a premier national research institution will soon get a blast in that direction thanks to important hypersonics research taking place on campus. Under the direction of Chris Combs, Dee Howard Endowed Assistant Professor in Aerodynamics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, UTSA is nearing the completion of a state-of-the-art, multi-million-dollar wind tunnel funded by the university.
Officially known as the UTSA Mach 7 Ludwieg Tube, the device will be able to conduct hypersonic-related research with speeds over 2,500 miles per hour. Combs’s expertise in hypersonics has recently generated inquiries from the media to comment on how this science impacts NASA’s current mission to Mars and the landing of the Perseverance rover.
“It’s hypersonics. That's what’s involved with making this landing happen and that’s the type of research we specialize in with my hypersonics lab at UTSA,” Combs said. “So when any kind of spacecraft coming from Earth hits the Mars atmosphere, it’s moving at hypersonic speed, which creates several challenges entering an atmosphere that fast, which is compounded by the significantly thinner atmosphere of Mars compared to Earth.”
Combs’ research in hypersonics will soon take a Mach-speed leap forward with the completion of the Ludwieg Tube. This highly-advanced wind tunnel will feature some unique capabilities that will distinguish it from similar tubes in the United States. First, it will be used to test a variety of conditions with speeds up to Mach 7, which is seven times the speed of sound. Combs and his research team will test conditions related to hypersonic and supersonic flows, aerodynamics, turbulence, energy and propulsion. Data from this research is of great interest to NASA and the U.S. military.
Another unique feature of UTSA’s Ludwieg Tube is the ability to mimic various atmospheric conditions including a mix of gas that comprises the atmosphere of Mars.
“In doing that you can help understand all the variables involved with landing and with launching a spacecraft from Mars,” Combs said. “One of the reasons we're building this wind tunnel is to be able to study these environments and help improve our understanding of the physics at play, so future spacecraft can be more efficiently designed.”
The Ludwieg Tube Mach 7 is nearing completion. Ironically, it was the Earth’s atmospheric conditions that caused a delay. February’s polar vortex in San Antonio kept crews from working on the project, pushing it out a few more weeks.
“It’s undergoing final assembly and we’re targeting the end of the spring 2021 semester to have it complete,” Combs predicted.
As part of UTSA’s Classroom to Career strategic initiative, Combs’ students will gain valuable experience working directly with the Mach 7 wind tunnel, which could attract more students to pursue degrees in aerospace engineering, which are in strong demand to support a growing aerospace industry in San Antonio and the nation.
As a scientist and space travel enthusiast, Combs understands what’s at stake through hypersonics research with missions to Mars and beyond.
“There's something in the human DNA to explore, to branch out, to see what's out there, and Mars is the next logical step.” said Combs. “If civilization is going to outlive Earth or problems we create on Earth, we need to develop the capability to get off the planet and get to another planet—probably get to other solar systems. But you know, one thing at a time.”
This online event, hosted by UTSA Veteran and Military Affairs and UTSA military liaison Lisa Carrington Firmin, will consist of an expert panel discussing and answering questions regarding sexual trauma in the military.Virtual Event
Great discussions continue this spring with Mary McNaughton-Cassill, Professor of Psychology and Donna Edmondson, University Ombuds. They are providing five 30-minute interactive webinars. Topics include bridge building, stigmas, team building, staying engaged at work and our shared experiences.Virtual Event
Led by UTSA Campus Recreation, these in-person group exercise sessions provide survivors a safe space to focus on their bodies' power to foster a sense of agency. Bring your mask and yoga mat and experience a soothing sound bath at sunrise. Students must register online before attending these sessions.Recreation and Wellness Center, Main Campus
Communication between parents and youth can be difficult and the stress of COVID-19 and virtual learning may have made things worse. This is an opportunity for parents and youth, ages 9-17, to learn and share how to enchance communication.Virtual Event
The virtial event will feature undergraduate student research and creative endeavors from across the university. Students who have participated in research experiences beginning summer 2020 through Spring 2021 are invited to participate.Virtual Event
At UTSA, there are many ways to connect with others, gain relevant career experience, and leave your mark at a world-ranked university. With over 300 student organizations, there’s something for everyone at UTSA. Hear from various UTSA Students Leaders about their life as a Roadrunner and why UTSA is their new home.Virtual Event
This course is offered by UTSA's Employee Assistance Program EAP Deer Oaks. Every new beginning comes from something else ending, and in our ever changing world, it is essential to develop the ability topositively cope with change. This session provides participants with the insight to understand the nature of change and learn how to effectively deal with both the losses and the gains that change brings to one’s life.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.