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Southwest Research Institute engineers are advancing what researchers know about hypersonic flight. A new study presented at the 2019 Joint Army-Navy-NASA-Air Force (JANNAF) Propulsion Meeting describes a series of tests conducted at SwRI's San Antonio headquarters that elucidate the conditions a future aircraft may experience traveling faster than 10 times the speed of sound.

"Hypersonic speed is defined as faster than five times the speed of sound or greater than Mach 5. When something is flying that fast, the air will chemically decompose around the craft," said SwRI's Dr. Nicholas J. Mueschke, the study's lead author. "Some points behind the shockwave created by the vehicle are hotter than the surface of the sun. Essentially, it's flying through this strange chemical environment that causes whatever is traveling through it to heat up, melt and chemically react with the air."

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Category: Science