USQ to better monitor spaceplanes and rockets – Australian Aviation


USQ’s state-of-the-art hypersonic work includes a pioneering wind tunnel that simulates Mach 5 speeds.

The University of Southern Queensland has received a million dollar grant to develop new ways to monitor test flights of space rockets and hypersonic aircraft.

The Australian Research Council money will be used to develop “diagnostic” instruments that could be placed in the air, on the ground or even on high-flying drones.

While hypersonic technology – defined as flying at least five times the speed of sound – is nothing new, countries are currently in an arms race to develop the next generation of missiles that are so maneuverable in the air that they cannot be intercepted or detected.

The advances are also being used to create hypersonic spaceplanes powered by scramjets, which could one day provide an alternative to rockets for carrying satellites into space. USQ already has its own pioneering wind tunnel that can simulate the effect of Mach 5 speeds on vehicles and the heat it generates.

Professor David Buttsworth, from the university’s Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences, will lead the project.

“Aerospace flight testing is essential for assessing the reliability of space access technologies, including reusable rockets and hypersonic breathing systems,” he said.

“These tests provide us with vital optical data in video and scientific formats, and we are looking for ways to get even more information about these flights.”

There are currently two main ways it is believed that maneuverable hypersonic vehicles and missiles could work.

The first, known as the hypersonic cruise missile, would see a rocket explode at Mach 5 before using an air-breathing engine, or scramjet, to maintain momentum. Lockheed Martin has already conducted successful test flights of its own air-breathing hypersonic weapon concept, known as the HAWC, which went beyond Mach 5 and reached a maximum altitude of 65,000 feet. .

The second, known as the Hovering Vehicle, sees a rocket explode into the sky before launching a separate hypersonic missile that has built up enough speed to travel at its own speed. The two-stage system means it can navigate the upper atmosphere with enough atmosphere to maintain lift but without creating too much drag.

Examples include the Russian Avangard, the US Navy’s conventional fast strike system and China’s aforementioned Dongfeng-17.

The USQ team will also develop new ways to determine the aerodynamic and thermal conditions encountered during high-speed flight.

“This work has the potential to accelerate research and development pathways for Australian companies and will position our country as a destination of choice for international aerospace companies,” Buttsworth said.

The research team includes Dr Fabian Zander, who appeared on Australian Aviation sister brand Space Connect’s podcast, which you can listen to above.


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