NMSU – The U.S. Department of Defense increased its hypersonic research budget of $600 million in 2021 to $3.8 billion in 2022 and has requested $4.7 billion for 2023.
With the only degree conferring aerospace engineering degree program in New Mexico, and as the state’s land and space grant institution, New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering is poised to make an impact in scientific advancement and workforce development for this burgeoning technological field.
Hypersonic refers to a category of high-speed aerodynamic vehicles that can travel for sustained periods of time at velocities greater than five times the speed of sound or Mach 5 (approximately 3,800 miles per hour). Commercial applications for air travel consider the Mach 5 range, while military applications need to push Mach 10 and beyond.
The study of hypersonic vehicles is not new, nor is it new to New Mexico. The first man-made object to achieve hypersonic flight was the two-stage Bumper rocket launched from White Sands Missile Range in 1949. The rocket reached a speed of 5,150 mph— approximately Mach 6.7. The vehicle, however, burned up during atmospheric reentry.
“We now see new concepts, defined by mission scenarios for the Defense Department, such as hypersonic glide vehicles being developed. The Defense Department’s intent is to work quickly to outpace any perceived evolving threats. The Army, Navy and Air Force are working on various independent or jointly fielded operational hypersonic systems,” said Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department Head Jay I. Frankel.
Author: Linda Fresques