UT Arlington wins $1.01 million grant to build first university-based, large-scale, arc-heated hypersonic-testing facility

Built for speed

A University of Texas at Arlington aerospace engineering team will build the country’s only university-based, arc-heated, hypersonic-testing facility for thermal protection systems through a new $1.01 million Defense University Research Instrumentation Program grant.

Luca Maddalena, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is the principal investigator for the grant. He will lead development of a large-scale, arc-heated wind tunnel at the existing UT Arlington Aerodynamics Research Center at the southeast corner of the main campus.

The facility will allow researchers to create flows with temperatures higher than 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit that use more than 1.6 megawatts of electrical power, to study and test new heat shield materials that will improve the safety and performance of hypersonic cruise and glide vehicles to withstand the intense heat generated by the interaction with the surrounding atmosphere at those speeds. The facility also will study and test spacecraft material that will simulate re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere or entering the atmosphere of other planets.

“The new facility will be unique in being able to perform studies on understanding the complex interaction between the flow and the thermal protection materials or heat shields, and contribute in the development of new thermal protection systems,” Maddalena said. “We will become an ideal site for extensive collaboration with other researchers from academia, industry and government.”

Maddalena’s DURIP grant is jointly funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency through a highly competitive award process. UT Arlington is adding $210,000 on top of the DURIP grant to help with the project.

The winning proposals highlight science and engineering research of importance to national defense. U.S. military agencies reportedly are developing experimental aircraft that can fly faster than five times the speed of sound.

“Dr. Maddalena’s success in establishing such an important means of testing advanced materials for aerospace applications will make UT Arlington an invaluable resource to industry, government and researchers worldwide,” said Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering. “The cutting-edge research that Dr. Maddalena and others will do using the new facility will enable greater discoveries in thermal protection of high speed vehicles or objects that travel in and out of the atmosphere.”

Stefano Gulli, a post-doctoral scholar, and master’s student David Campbell, are members of Maddalena’s research group and for the past several months have worked very intensively in the conceptual design of the new facility.

The DURIP grant furthers research led by Maddalena in the area of hypersonic air travel. Maddelena was principal investigator of a UT Arlington project awarded in 2012. That three-year, $640,000 NASA National Research Award studied novel injector designs to support combustion at hypersonic speeds, work aimed at reducing air travel times and making space access affordable.

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System.  The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at http://www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.