Student Researched and Developed High-Powered Rocket with Glider Payload; The Impact of Hypersonic Weaponry on International Stability and Arms Control

Ortega, Thomas, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Wylie, Caitlin, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Dong, Haibo, EN-Mech & Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

Developing hypersonic technology, which enables vehicles to travel at speeds of Mach five or greater, is at the forefront of the defense industry’s agenda. As a matter of fact, all branches of the U.S. military are currently developing hypersonics for military applications. The current hypersonic weapons programs in the United States are the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS), the Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB), and Hypersonic Air Launched Offensive Anti Surface (HALO) programs for the Navy; the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) program for the U.S. Army; and the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) and Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) programs for the U.S. Air Force. Hypersonic weaponry is an emerging technology that will have a profound impact on a country’s military capabilities. However, although this technology offers some benefits to the country that possess it, its unregulated form has broader negative implications on international stability. Since developing hypersonic technology is a priority for the United States and the defense industry, the technical topic of this science, technology, and society (STS) portfolio is a Student Researched and Developed High-Powered Rocket with Glider Payload. This topic was chosen because it mirrored the Navy piloted Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) program. This program aims to develop a self-guiding and maneuverable hypersonic glide body that detaches from a rocket booster. The rocket booster accelerates the hypersonic glider body to its target altitude. The hypersonic glide body then accelerates from apogee to its target at hypersonic speeds. The goal of the technical project is to accomplish a similar feat just on a smaller, subsonic scale. The objective of the high-powered rocket is to deploy a glider payload at an apogee of 4,000 feet. Once deployed, the glider’s objective is to descend in a controlled and stable manner, landing within the designated launch facility area. The glider also has a secondary objective of serving as a platform for future capstone projects. Later capstone projects may introduce more advanced features, such as autonomous and active control, to enable more advanced mission objectives. The STS paper explores the impact of hypersonic weaponry on international stability and arms control proposals. The research questions posed in this paper are as follows: Do hypersonic weapons threaten to undermine international stability by promoting an unchecked arms race between global powers? If so, how do current arms control proposals fail to address emerging technologies like hypersonic weapons and what adjustments can be made to their frameworks that would remedy them? Given the sudden interest in hypersonics, especially for military applications, I explore the consequences that developing and deploying this technology have. One important theme the STS paper explores is the value of the information gained from researching and developing new technology. In most cases, the information gained from researching and developing new technology is more valuable than the resultant product of that research. Given this insight, the technical paper provides information as to the potential challenges associated with designing hypersonic systems whereas the STS paper discusses the broader impact of this technology on society as a whole.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Hypersonics, Arms Control, International Stability, Rocket

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering

Technical Advisor: Haibo Dong

STS Advisor: Caitlin Wylie

Technical Team Members: Christopher Camacho, Dylan House, Duraan Miskinyar,
Jordyn Hicks, Joe Burton, Leo Bashow, Miriam Morse

Issued Date: