Friday, November 04, 2011

PHYSX - Pegasus Hypersonic Experiment Project

Imagine a new breed of aircraft that could travel 3750 mph (at sea level) and make a trip from Los Angeles to New York City in a little more than 45 min.

NASA is working to make these aircraft of the future possible through research into the world of hypersonics, or flight at speeds faster than five times the speed of sound.

One of these exciting areas of research is the Pegasus Hypersonic Experiment project, managed by the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA.

The experiment consists of a smooth, information-gathering "glove" installed on the first-stage wing of the Pegasus Space Launch Vehicle, which reaches speeds of Mach 8 and altitudes of 200,000 ft. The glove is bonded to the right wing and wraps from the underside of wing, over the leading edge and onto the upperside, although it does not cover the wing completely.

The experiment will gather information about how the air flows over the Pegasus wing. Scientists are particularly interested in the transition of air from smooth (laminar) to turbulent flow. The goal of the experiment is to discover when the airflow over the wing becomes turbulent and why.

Airflow has a great impact on how hot vehicles get. Turbulent air generates a lot of heat because of increased friction, which can cause burns on aircraft.

The hypersonic X-15 experienced such problems due to turbulence-induced friction. In addition, turbulent air creates more "drag," slowing down aircraft or making them less efficient.

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