Sandia LabNews

Sandia uses hypersonic vehicle design, development, flight experience to assist with NASA's HyTEx program

Sandia uses hypersonic vehicle design, development, flight experience to assist with NASA’s HyTEx program

This is a second part of a two-part report. The first was in the Oct. 3 Lab News.

Sandia researchers are assisting with NASA’s HyTEx (Hypersonic Technology Experiment) program to create new mature technologies that will benefit next-generation launch vehicles, a follow-on to the current space shuttle.

A part of NASA’s Next Generation Launch Technology program, HyTEx will provide a dedicated, timely, and cost-effective means of advancing the readiness level of vehicle system technologies through flight demonstrations in a relevant reentry environment. Sandia will develop the HyTEx re-entry system.

The involvement in HyTEx is synergistic with Sandia’s long-range goal of developing advanced technologies and integrated capabilities for hypersonic flight systems applicable to a wide range of military and access-to-space requirements.

A perfect fit

David Keese (15404), deputy director for Strike Systems, says the NASA HyTEx technology flight demonstration is a perfect fit with Sandia’s goal of helping create the next generation of hypersonic vehicles. The HyTEx flight is scheduled for May 2005.

"Our most important role in the HyTEx program is to use our integrated hypersonic vehicle design, development, and flight experience to produce a capability to obtain hypersonic flight evaluation of these new technologies," says David.

Hypersonic technologies include a range of technical disciplines that involve high-speed aerodynamic modeling, aero-thermal analyses, high-temperature materials, and navigation/guidance/ control (NG&C).

David says there are four basic design challenges in the HyTEx program. The first is to provide a robust — low-risk, effective — vehicle designed to function as a flying test-bed. Second is to incorporate technology experiments into this test-bed design in a fail-safe approach. Third is to collect and transmit in-flight data from these experiments. And fourth is to adapt the flight vehicle design to a variety of potential booster designs, including a recovery system that will allow post-flight examination of the integrated experiments.

Sandia’s next major steps in the project involve developing detailed plans and organizing Sandia’s resources to produce an actual flight system for the HyTEx proof-of-concept mission. At the same time, researchers want to make progress in advancing key enabling technologies that will give even greater capabilities to programs like HyTEx in the future.

Making an impact

Mike Macha (15415), HyTEx project manager, says he sees the project as an opportunity for Sandia to have a significant impact on a broad spectrum of emerging US hypersonic technology initiatives.

"There is a resurgent and even urgent interest in developing a new generation of vehicles for rapid, long-range military capability and for reliable, affordable access to space," says Mike.

Fortunately, Sandia already has a foothold in a wide range of potential hypersonic technology areas — from high-temperature materials for thermal protection systems, to robust non-GPS dependent navigation and guidance methods, to modeling and simulation capabilities for rapid assessment of new vehicle configurations.

"One immediate major challenge is deciding which subset of candidate technology areas to invest in," Mike says. "During the first year we have gone through a discovery phase that includes understanding the current level of development and the time frame for maturation of these technologies."

Material created at Sandia is being used to assist with the project (Lab News, Oct. 3). In addition, the project researchers look outside of Sandia to understand the technology requirements of the hypersonic programs being pursued by the various government departments and agencies.

"Sandia’s commitment to an internal hypersonic technology program establishes our credibility as a major player in this field and will lead to opportunities to collaborate in a variety of external programs," says Mike.