Hypersonic Atmospheric Reentry Deceleration Experiment (HARDE) Conceptual Design; Investigating the Issues Surrounding the Progress and Applications of Supersonic and Hypersonic Flight

Osborne, Charles, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Goyne, Christopher, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, Engineering and Society, Science, Technology, and Society Program, University of Virginia

High speed flight technology is at its cutting edge for military and commercial applications with new improvements for hypersonic and supersonic flight arriving each year. Hypersonic weapons have the capability of changing the landscape of war with missiles that are extremely difficult to defend. Supersonic commercial flight would allow for civilian travel at speeds like never seen before. The technical report on using a nanosatellite CubeSat to study hypersonic flight conditions has the purpose of proving the feasibility of using a relatively low cost and highly accessible method for educational hypersonic research. Hypersonic research is difficult to conduct on the ground through wind tunnels due to the extreme temperatures and shock waves caused by hypersonic flow, and hypersonic flight experiments are often expensive. Therefore, the use of CubeSats to conduct hypersonic research can open the door to increased opportunities for hypersonic research. The STS research topic on the sociotechnical issues surrounding high speed flight technology, specifically hypersonic weapons and supersonic commercial vehicles, has the purpose of examining the social and technical aspects that are holding back the development of high speed flight technology and what’s necessary for further technological development. The technical and STS research papers are tightly coupled since they are both researching methods to advance high speed flight technology.
The hypersonic CubeSat flight experiment is planned to be launched in 2024 along the Antares launch vehicle, and upon hypersonic reentry will collect temperature and pressure data that will be relayed to a UVA ground station. The success of this mission will prove that CubeSats provide the opportunity for university students to research hypersonic flight. With greater opportunity to research hypersonic flight, more research can be collected to further advance hypersonic flight technology. The preliminary design for the hypersonic CubeSat flight experiment has been finished and the project will be completed by the next class in the spacecraft design capstone to eventually be launched in the summer of 2023. This preliminary design includes the components for each subsystem of the satellite as well as the shape and structural design. The design as selected by the preliminary design review will be built by the next group and compatibilized to the launch vehicle.
The STS research paper aims to answer the questions of what is the potential of high speed flight technology and why does there seems to be a lag in recent advancements. The flight speed record has not been broken since 2004, no air breathing hypersonic weapons have been used in military applications, and there has only been one supersonic passenger plane - the Concorde - that eventually failed to provide enough profit. Various research papers done by aerospace companies such as NASA as well as government agencies provide sources of research for the technical and organizational complications that come with development and application of hypersonic flight in the military. Recent news articles supply information about how hypersonic weapons apply to our world today. Analysis of the Concorde was based on historical reports and review of the Concorde project, which were used to examine why the project eventually failed and why there hasn’t been any supersonic commercial flight since. Claims and projections by new companies working on supersonic commercial aircraft also help tell the story of what’s to come for supersonic commercial flight technology.
According to research of hypersonic flight in military applications, there are many countries with large militaries that have recently been putting a lot of time and money into research on hypersonic glide vehicles for military purposes. These countries include the United States, China, Russia, and North Korea. Hypersonic glide vehicles have the capability to avoid detection and defense systems so with all of the research on these hypersonic weapons they pose a great threat to national defense. Pacey’s triangle, developed by Arnold Pacey, provides an STS framework to analyze the technical, organizational, and cultural aspects concerning the practice of hypersonic weapons and how those influence the development of the technology. On the topic of supersonic commercial flight, analysis of the case of the British Airways Concorde allows for better understanding of the development of supersonic commercial technology. The STS framework of Social Construction of Technology, developed by Trevor Pinch and Wiebe Bijker, allows for analysis of relevant social groups and how relationships between these groups eventually led to the failure of the Concorde and why there have been no supersonic commercial aircraft since. The Concorde eventually failed because passengers prioritized comfort and cost over the speed of the aircraft. Supersonic flight is not as fuel efficient as slower flight because of the increased drag which eventually led to the airline not making enough money off of the Concorde since less passengers wanted to pay first class prices for uncomfortable seats and not first class service. Supersonic commercial aircraft such as the Concorde also pose an environmental threat due low fuel efficiency and threats to the ozone due to flight altitudes. However, new companies such as United are working toward using sustainable air fuel, and new engine designs to produce supersonic commercial aircraft.
This research project as a whole aims to assist with the evolution of high speed flight research and technological development. The use of CubeSats for hypersonic research will help this type of research to become more accessible to university students which will in turn help with technological advancement of hypersonic flight. The study of the sociotechnical issues surrounding high speed flight, and the impacts it will have on our world will help people understand the importance of high speed flight technology as well as what is needed to work towards a safe and useful application of this technology.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Social Construction of Technology, Pacey's Triangle, Hypersonic flight, Supersonic flight, CubeSat

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering
Technical Advisor: Christopher Goyne
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Emma Auld, Hannah Boyles, Taylor Chandler, Yulie Cheng, Carsten Connolly, Noah Dunn, Joshua Franklin, Samuel Goodkind, Amy Lee, Andrew Metro, Isaac Morrison, Carlos Perez, Vincent Tate, and Micah Whitmire

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