In aerodynamics, hypersonic speed greatly exceeds the speed of sound. On the ground, sound waves travel at around 340 metres per second. Any faster than this is supersonic, and five or more times faster is hypersonic. Unlike supersonic flow, with a hypersonic flow there is no sound barrier that is broken. As a vehicle moves faster and faster, the heat transfer of the flow starts to become important as the kinetic energy of the object converts to heat in the surrounding gases.
In the natural world, objects such as meteors and asteroids move through the Earth’s atmosphere hypersonically. Space shuttles and other space vehicles that we send to other planets, like the Mars Pathfinder-type probes, are man-made hypersonic vehicles. There have also been attempts to build aircraft that fly at hypersonic speeds here on Earth.
Hypersonic and high-speed flow research at UNSW Canberra investigates the gas dynamics of chemically reacting and real-gas flows. These inform the design of the hypersonic propulsion systems and planetary entry systems required to achieve practical hypersonic flight for high-speed aircraft. This is achieved by solving fundamental problems in aerothermodynamics, including the effects of chemical reactions and real-gas effects on laminar and turbulent flows of gas mixtures.
These processes include separated flows, leading-edge bluntness effects, surface temperature effects, wake flows, and fluid-thermal-structural interactions. We investigate these processes using a combination of experimental, mathematical analysis, and numerical simulation.
We have several significant research achievements, including:
We invested several decades to understanding the application of advanced laser-based diagnostic techniques to hypersonic flow measurements.
UNSW Canberra Space’s applications of our SSA research include:
Over the lifetime of the group, we have collaborated with many university and industry partners. Our research has received continued support from the Australian Research Council (ARC), the US Airforce Office of Scientific Research, and the Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development over many years.
Our current collaboration partners on funded projects include:
Hypersonic Turbulence - We are working in collaboration with the US Air Force Academy on making new high-speed measurement and theory of the transition from laminar to turbulent flow over simple shapes in hypersonic flow. This is one of the most challenging problems in classical aerospace engineering.
We are actively involved in science and technology outreach including:
We offer courses in both hypersonic and gas-turbine engine theory at the undergraduate level, as well as a course in instrumentation.