Pentagon awards new prizes to universities for working on hypersonic technology

Written by Jon Harper

The Department of Defense is expanding its outreach to universities for help in developing hypersonic weapons technology, announcing several new applied research grants on Thursday for work on navigation systems, scramjets, controls speed and altitude and aeroshell monitoring capabilities.

Hypersonic missiles, designed to fly faster than Mach 5 and be highly maneuverable, are a top modernization priority for the Pentagon as it battles with China and Russia to deploy new military technologies. The DOD wants to further refine and develop the various hypersonic components as it aims to begin fielding such systems in 2023 and bring additional platforms online in the coming years. It is also trying to build a talent pool in academia and strengthen the future hypersonic workforce.

Four groups of universities and their research partners each recently received one-year, $500,000 applied research grants to support those efforts, the Pentagon said Thursday.

Texas A&M University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Michigan and Ohio State University – in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories and Boeing Co. – have been asked to develop navigation systems to maintain the stability of the navigation system. feedback control for hypersonic vehicles.

“Researchers will apply multiphysics modeling approaches to identify and characterize the drift of navigation sensors operating in degraded environments. The combined developments will create the Rate-limited Information Fusion, Learning and Estimation (RIFLES) system, which will advance the state of the practice in robust navigation and information fusion,” according to a DOD press release.

University of Virginia, University of South Wales, Ohio State University and University of Arizona – in partnership with Air Force Research Laboratory, FGC Plasma Solutions and Lockheed Martin – have been tasked with developing an improved scramjet system that officials hope will allow the hypersonic vehicles to operate in a wide range of flight conditions.

“Researchers will investigate the parameters that allow the nanosecond discharge to improve ignition and stabilize flame holdout over a higher Mach number range,” the statement said.

The University of Alabama at Huntsville and the CFD Research Corp. have been selected to design and develop new concepts and technologies that enable hypersonic vehicles to achieve “precise speeds and altitudes” for various missions. Their work will include the study of “active control of the propellant grain burn rate to develop a control mechanism tailored to the composition of the propellant to meet different mission requirements,” according to the release.

Florida International University and the University of Rhode Island – in partnership with the Raytheon Technologies Research Center – are to come up with a solution to monitor the health and condition of hypersonic aeroshells.

“The researchers will analyze the inverse relationship between the presence of mechanical defects in the aeroshell and the rapid onset of heating due to these defects,” according to the press release.

Fellowships are managed by the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics and the Pentagon’s Joint Hypersonics Transition Office.

The consortium bills itself as “an inclusive and collaborative network of universities working with government, industry, national laboratories, federally funded research centers and research centers affiliated with existing universities” that aim to “to provide the innovation and manpower needed to advance modern hypersonic flight systems”. in the service of national defence. »

The Joint Hypersonics Transition Office, under the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, was established in 2020 and tasked with accelerating technology and workforce development and facilitate the transition of new technologies to operational capabilities.

Thursday’s announcement came the same day Undersecretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks toured Purdue University’s Center for Hypersonic and Applied Research to highlight the importance of these types of capabilities and the work that the medium university made to advance them.

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