The Hypersonics Project of the ARMD Fundamental Aeronautics Program is committed to mastering the science of hypersonic flight in support of NASA's mission: "To pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research."
Today, rocket-powered, expendable launch vehicles reach hypersonic speeds in the upper atmosphere while transporting payloads to orbit. Unpowered hypersonic entry vehicles return to earth from near-earth and interplanetary orbits. Probes transit the atmospheres of other planets and land robotic exploration systems. Humans are transported to orbit and back by the Space Shuttle, a semi-reusable system. While these are extraordinary accomplishments, the extreme heating of hypersonic flight requires designers to resort to large margins to mitigate uncertainties, resulting in reduced mission capabilities and increased costs.
The Hypersonics Project focuses on the development and validation of foundational tools and technologies for two hypersonic system classes: the Highly Reliable Reusable Launch Systems (HRRLS) class, an airbreathing space launch vehicle, and the High Mass Mars Entry Systems (HMMES) class, a large vehicle focused on transporting humans to and from Mars.
A key objective of the Hypersonics Project is to develop methods and tools that adequately model fundamental physics, and allow credible, physics-based optimization for future operational hypersonic vehicle systems of the two classes identified above. This research will enable highly reliable and efficient hypersonic systems to emerge. A stable, long-term commitment to investment in foundational hypersonics research should lead to sufficient understanding of the underlying physics. Then design methods can achieve the level of knowledge required to fully utilize the possibilities of hypersonic flight, and enable it to become routine.