Manmade vehicles have been flying at hypersonic speeds – speeds in excess of about five times the speed of sound, or Mach 5 – for almost seventy years. Every spacecraft that has returned to Earth from space, or entered another planet’s atmosphere, including the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules, the Space Shuttle, as well as a long list of unmanned probes, has flown at hypersonic speeds. Those craft were all thick blunt shapes, designed to slow down using drag in the atmosphere. There is another part of the hypersonic flight envelope that includes slender, low-drag forms that can enable sustained maneuvering flight in the atmosphere. Such flyers could perform a variety of missions, from high speed reconnaissance and delivery, to ultimately aircraft-like access to space. This talk will review some of the technical challenges associated with long-duration flight in the atmosphere at speeds beyond Mach five, including aerodynamics, propulsion, controls, and materials. Some notable recent programs and developments will be discussed, with an eye towards how they have advanced the state of the art and brought us closer to practical hypersonic flight. Uses of hypersonic vehicles for both military and civilian missions will also be considered, along with ideas for future research and development investments. Finally, efforts in the United States will be compared to work under way in other countries, suggesting that the cyclical nature of our investments in research, test facilities, and people has allowed other countries to catch up to us, in in some cases exceed, our capabilities in hypersonic development.
Dr. Mark J. Lewis is the Director of the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), a federally funded research and development center. He leads more than 40 researchers providing analysis of national and international science and technology issues for the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health, among others.
Prior to taking charge of STPI, Dr. Lewis served as the Willis Young, Jr. Professor and Chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland. A faculty member at Maryland for 24 years, Dr. Lewis taught and conducted basic and applied research. From 2004 to 2008, he was the Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force. From 2010 to 2011, he was President of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Dr. Lewis also served as a member of the Air Staff and principal scientific adviser to the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the Air Force. He provided assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the Air Force mission. Dr. Lewis attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautics and astronautics, Bachelor of Science degree in earth and planetary science (1984), and both a Master of Science degree (1985) and a Doctor of Science degree (1988) in aeronautics and astronautics.
Dr. Lewis is the author of more than 300 technical publications and has been an adviser to more than 60 graduate students. He has also served on various advisory boards for NASA, the Defense Department, and the Air Force, including two terms on the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Lewis is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and an Honorary Fellow of the AIAA. His awards include the DOD Exemplary Civilian Service Award, Meritorious Civilian Service Award, Exceptional Civilian Service Award, the IECEC/AIAA Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Air Force Association’s Theodore Von Karman Award. He was also recognized as an AIAA National Capital Young Scientist/Engineer of the Year (1994) and an Aviation Week Laureate (2007).
IDA is a non-profit corporation operating in the public interest. Its three federally funded research and development centers provide objective analyses of national security issues and related national challenges, particularly those requiring extraordinary scientific and technical expertise.