AEDC Tunnel 9 team testing new speeds


The Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 team is conducting tests in risk reduction for a new test capability that will be revolutionary for the AEDC and for the US Air Force. The capability involves increasing the maximum Mach number at Tunnel 9 in White Oak, Maryland, from Mach 14 to Mach 18.

Dan Marren, AEDC director, explained the testing is in response to national strategy and requests from high priority customers.

“The test is going very well and results are the first of their kind,” Marren said. “AEDC is in the process of transforming hypersonic test and evaluation. Ed Tucker, High Speed Systems Test chief at AEDC, is managing the Hypersonic Test and Evaluation Investment Program for the US Air Force, which will improve evaluation of hypersonic technologies through improving our test capabilities, advancing modeling efforts and diagnostics, and finding ways to prepare the next generation testing workforce.”

The program is expected to bring hundreds of millions of investment dollars to AEDC over the Future Years’ Defense Program.

As part of the coordinated plan, the Tunnel 9 test team is doing its part to extend the existing Mach capability of the hypervelocity wind tunnel. “This will require advances in material technologies and a deeper physics-based understanding of the flow quality in the test cell,” Marren said.

The risk reduction runs are aimed at evaluating the new test environment needed for Mach 18 prior to building a new nozzle.

John Lafferty, Tunnel 9 technical director said, “In the existing facility nozzle, we are creating the conditions we will experience at Mach 18 to determine the exact thermodynamic state of the gas to achieve the best design. Several optical diagnostic techniques not typically deployed in a major T&E (test and evaluation) facility are being operated to help prosecute the physics and calibrate the flow.”

Marren noted that engineers and researchers have been working toward achieving higher Mach capability for decades now, and that, coincidentally, it was one of AEDC’s very own that helped lead the effort.

“The fascinating part of all this is that today’s measurements and the ability to go to Mach 18 is rooted almost 25 years ago, when two young engineers, one being current Tunnel 9 Tech Director John Lafferty, took a data set that at the time they didn’t have the sophisticated tools to analyze sufficiently. They did, however, publish their results conclusions and hypothesis anyway,” Marren said.

“That original data set, and a few others along the way, served to form a foundation and hypothesis that others, including researchers at NASA, picked up, and with modern tools

September 23, 2016

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