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Why do we study hypersonics?

Vehicles traveling more than 5 times the speed of sound are referred to as hypersonic. These speeds are the domain of spacecraft on atmospheric entry, experimental high-speed aircraft, and high-speed missiles. Strong shockwaves form around these vehicles, heating the air and initiating dramatic chemical changes. High-energy collisions between air molecules cause molecular excitation, dissociation, and even ionization. The resulting changes in the gas chemical and thermal properties have dramatic influences on vehicle aerodynamics, surface heating, fuel reactions, and control surface performance.

In the Hanson Research Group, we investigate how the chemistry of air changes in hypersonic flows through detailed studies of air kinetics in our shock tubes and by developing diagnostics for hypersonic ground test facilities worldwide.

Learn more about hypersonics