UTC Partners With U.S. Air Force On $9.8 Million Research Project

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

UTC is among several university partners in a $9.8 million research project with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory on the development of materials and structures for reusable hypersonic vehicles to travel at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound. 

Along with UTC, fellow team members on the project are the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Purdue University and the University of Dayton Research Institute. 

UTC’s SimCenter experts and other team members will perform both numerical simulations and experiments to guide materials and structure design performed by the University of Dayton Research Institute. UT researchers also will conduct aerodynamic and thermal analysis of the vehicle and environment. 

Five times the speed of sound is about 3,800 miles per hour and, at such extreme velocity, intense heat is generated by the vehicle. Understanding how that heat is transferred to the vehicle by the aerodynamic environment is critical to the vehicle design, according to John Schmisseur, professor of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering at the UT Space Institute. 

“Understanding the origin and transmission of the intense thermal loads generated on a hypersonic vehicle requires identification of regions of significant local heating that are often the greatest source of risk to the vehicle surface,” Mr. Schmisseur said. “Fortunately, within the UT System, we have outstanding capabilities for just such a complex analysis.” 

Mr. Schmisseur, lead investigator for UT’s role in the project, will head a team of 15 faculty researchers from UTC, UTSI, UT Knoxville, where Mr. Schmisseur serves as the H.H. Arnold Chair in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering.

“When we consider the integrated technical capabilities of the three UT campuses involved in this project, we have a lot of intellectual firepower to bring to bear on this challenging problem,” Mr. Schmisseur said. 

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has recognized aerospace and defense as a significant contributor to Tennessee’s economy, and this hypersonics project is intended to foster development of UT system-wide partnerships to enhance research and innovation in support of the sector, according to Mr. Schmisseur. 

“We are grateful for the critical support of Senator Lamar Alexander, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and Rep. Scott DesJarlais in enabling this hypersonics partnership with the University of Dayton Research Institute and Purdue University that facilitates collaboration across our UT campuses for the benefit of Tennessee and its aerospace and defense industries,” Mr. Schmisseur said. “The federal funding making resources available for this project is a strategic investment in national security and the advancement of research in Tennessee.” 

Senator Alexander voiced his support for the project and what it will mean for aerospace research in the U.S. 

“Congratulations to the University of Tennessee for being one of three universities selected to receive federal funding to research and develop hypersonic technology,” Senatror Alexander said. “This project, spearheaded by the UT Space Institute, will increase our nation’s defense capabilities by developing reusable hypersonic vehicles that can travel at five times the speed of sound. Tennessee has played a key role in scientific research for many decades, and with UT’s brainpower, our state will continue to play a key role in the development of our nation’s defense capabilities.”


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