Hypersonic testing facility expands capability

A new facility for the testing of satellites and other large-scale vehicles travelling faster than the speed of sound will open at the University of Queensland (UQ).

The facility is an upgrade of UQ’s Centre for Hypersonics’s large expansion tube facility, X3. The new configuration is named X3R, and can test at speeds up to roughly 8,000 kilometres per hour.

The newly configured shock tunnel can conduct tests with a duration of over 10 miliseconds, which is a significant step forward for such testing in Australia, highlighted David Gildfind from the Centre for Hypersonics.

“That might not sound like a long time, but at these speeds, it more than triples what is now possible within Australia,” he said.

With proposals for aerial vehicles that can conduct intercontinental travel at hypersonic speeds picking, up having the facilities to test the impact of such speeds on the vehicles is key to their safe operation.

“This new addition to our facility will allow us to test the type of vehicles that could one day travel from Australia to Europe in two hours,” said Gildfind.

As Australia’s space sector picks up, the centre will use the legacy of X3, which was used to test space vehicles, for new applications.

“X3R is a transformational capability improvement for Australia, which makes it possible for researchers to investigate fundamental studies of hypersonic phenomena, of which we historically have a great legacy, at a larger scale,’ said Gildfind.

Increasingly, space vehicles are looking at low earth orbit as a cost effective way to deploy space technologies, and this new facility will support the new industry.

“This could lead to significant breakthroughs in hypersonic technologies in Australia, and will provide the vital infrastructure Australia needs to support our burgeoning space industry,” said Gildfind.