Engineers are advancing what researchers know about hypersonic flight. A new study describes a series of tests that elucidate the conditions a future aircraft may experience traveling faster than 10 times the speed of sound. "Hypersonic speed is defined as faster than five times the speed of sound or greater than Mach 5.
When something is flying that fast, the air will chemically decompose around the craft," said SwRI's Dr. Nicholas J. Mueschke, the study's lead author. "Some points behind the shockwave created by the vehicle are hotter than the surface of the sun. Essentially, it's flying through this strange chemical environment that causes whatever is traveling through it to heat up, melt and chemically react with the air."
Because that environment is so unique, recreating realistic flight conditions to test vehicles for hypersonic flight is a challenge. Wind tunnels can match some of the conditions, but don't replicate the chemical effects that a hypersonic vehicle would experience in the real flight environment. Mueschke and his colleagues utilized SwRI's two-stage light gas gun system to simulate hypersonic flight conditions. READ MORE (Science Daily)