Hypersonic Flight Vehicle Design and Performance Analysis

In This Section

Hypersonic flight has once again risen to prominence as a topic of high national interest. Current US and international programs range from hypersonic cruise vehicles (HCV) and transatmospheric vehicles (TAV), to maneuverable hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) and hypersonic interceptors. The design and performance analysis of these vehicles is challenging because of the wide range of flight conditions encountered, and the critical importance of maintaining acceptable fuel mass fractions. These constraints impose severe challenges to designers, requiring innovative component designs and careful integration of the various components to achieve an efficient flight vehicle.

This 2-day course will cover air-breathing hypersonic flight vehicles, emphasizing propulsion systems that range from ramjets, scramjets, dual-mode scramjets, turbine-based and rocket-based combined cycles to pre-cooled engine cycles. Topics will include an introduction to hypersonic flight from a historical perspective, HCV and TAV performance requirements, design methodology, aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, flight mechanics/stability & control, thermal management, design convergence, off-design performance analysis, the role of CFD, ground & flight testing, and conclude with a review of ongoing international programs.

A follow-on course covering non-air-breathing flight vehicles such as maneuvering boost-glide vehicles and hypersonic interceptors is planned for a future offering.

Learning Objectives 

  • Awareness of hypersonic flight vehicle development from a historical perspective
  • Knowledge of performance requirements for air-breathing hypersonic flight vehicles
  • Ability to perform aerothermodynamic cycle analysis
  • Knowledge of supersonic mixing problems
  • Design and performance analysis of vehicle aerodynamics, propulsion, structures and materials
  • Understanding the aerothermodynamic flight environment
  • Introduction to design issues, design methodology and design convergence.
  • Understanding the role of CFD, ground testing and flight testing.
  • Awareness of current international hypersonic vehicle development programs
  • [See full outline below]

Who Should Attend

  • The course is designed for project engineers, researchers, students, scientists and managers engaged in research, design, development, and testing of hypersonic vehicles.


Please contact Jason Cole if you have any questions about courses.

  • Introduction / Historical Review. Introduction to hypersonic vehicle design from a historical perspective, hypersonic flight vehicle programs in the US are traced from the early 60’s to current active programs.
  • Design Challenges. Major hypersonic vehicle design and performance challenges will be reviewed, such as: large variations in aerodynamic and propulsion response with Mach number; extreme thermal environments that drive material options, structural concepts and thermal protection/management, configuration impacts of very large propellant fractions, and the high degree of vehicle system/component integration required to achieve acceptable performance.
  • Mission Performance Requirements. Hypersonic flight corridor for air-breathing flight vehicles, equations of motion, the importance of fuel and empty mass fractions; overall efficiency and specific impulse requirements for accelerators, hypersonic cruise vehicles, and transatmospheric flight vehicles.
  • Design Methodology. Design configuration options will be presented and the pros and cons of each will be discussed, design parameters and geometric quantities that drive vehicle performance will be defined and viable ranges identified for different missions, the importance and value of multidisciplinary design analysis and optimization (MDAO) will be described and an MDAO approach with results will be presented.
  • Vehicle Aerodynamics. Characterization of hypersonic flow, description of impact theory and comparison to CFD; discussion of low-density effects, viscous interaction, strong shock flows and high-temperature effects; force accounting for an air breathing vehicle.
  • Air-breathing Hypersonic Propulsion Systems. Aerothermodynamic analysis of ramjets and scramjets, stream thrust analysis; design and performance analysis of inlets, inlet isolators, burners and nozzles; combined cycle propulsion systems, development of an integrated hypersonic engine code using the NPSS Platform.
  • Mixing Problems in Supersonic Combustion. Scramjet fuel injectors and injection system requirements. supersonic mixing fundamentals, turbulent shear-layers, compressibility effects and growth rate scaling, transverse jet in supersonic crossflow, ramp injectors, aeroramp injector, cavity-based fuel injectors, hypermixer-type injector, staged injection, mixing efficiency, the scalability challenge, mixing enhancement strategies, vortex-based fuel injection system, scramjet flowpath design.
  • Structures & Materials. High temperature structural design methodology, selection of materials driven by TPS/TMS, thermal/mechanical stress analyses as basis for sizing structure elements, structural mass fraction and its impact on required fuel mass fraction.
  • Vehicle Aerothermodynamic Environment. Description of real-gas effects, aerodynamic heating prediction techniques, description of boundary-layer transition mechanisms and state-of-the-art methods for predicting transition, application of ground testing.
  • Vehicle Stability/Control. Flight regimes for hypersonic vehicles, examples of the effect of Mach number on stability coefficients, requirements development in pitch, yaw, and roll axes.
  • Design Convergence. Definition and layout of the vehicle concept including propulsion flowpath, aerodynamics and controls, basic structural design and thermal management, analysis of performance of components and total vehicle system will be described along with examples of technical options to achieve a “converged” vehicle concept.
  • The Role of CFD Simulation, Ground & Flight Testing. Understanding the hypersonic environment, what can CFD do?wind tunnels - Mach ranges, enthalpy, test section size; flight testing - rocket boosted, air launched, horizontal takeoff; instrumentation for ground and flight testing, future test requirements.
  • Review of Ongoing International Programs. Summary of past and present international hypersonics programs.


Dr. Donald Wilson, University of Texas at Arlington. Dr. Wilson has over 50 years of experience in the fields of gas dynamics, high-speed aerodynamics and propulsion. He was involved in the development of electric arc heaters and MHD accelerators for hypersonic wind tunnel applications at the Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC), and in the development of supersonic inlets at LTV Aerospace and Defense Company prior to joining UTA in 1968. Dr. Wilson also spent two summers at NASA Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center as a NASA/ASEE Faculty Fellow. He was actively involved in the NASA/DOE National MHD Power Generator Program. He was responsible for the establishment of the UTA Aerodynamics Research Center and was involved in the development of its numerous test facilities. He was awarded the AIAA Ground Testing Award in 2001. Dr. Wilson directed the NASA/UTA Center for Hypersonic Research from 1993 until 1997, and also initiated the UTA detonation wave engine research programs in 1994. He is the former Chair of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and is currently serving as Associate Chair responsible for academic programs. Dr. Wilson is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

Dr. Luca Maddalena, University of Texas at Arlington. Dr. Maddalena is a Professor of Aerospace Engineering and the Director of the Aerodynamics Research Center, ARC. He is responsible for research operations in its low-speed wind tunnel, transonic Ludwieg tube tunnel (0.4< M <1.25), supersonic blow-down tunnel (1.5< M <4), detonation-driven shock tunnel (6< M <16), and the 1.6 MW arc jet facility, as well as pulsed and continuous detonation wave engine test cells. His research, primarily experimental, focuses on fundamental investigations of mixing and combustion in turbulent supersonic flows, and their application to hypersonic airbreathing propulsion, and on reusable thermal protection systems and thermal management for sustained hypersonic flight. His research has been funded by NASA LRC (Hypervelocity Propulsion, Mach 8+), the Office of Naval Research for his contribution to the Strike WEApon Program (WEAP) and Arc-Jet Flow Characterization, the Air Force Research Laboratory on the Next Generation Thermal Protection Systems Program, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Prof. Maddalena is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, He served as Chair of the AIAA's Hypersonic Technologies and Aerospace Planes (HyTASP) Technical Committee from 2017 to 2019.

Dr. Frank Lu, University of Texas at Arlington. Dr. Lu is a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the UT Arlington. He has worked in an academic setting in experimental aerodynamics and aerospace propulsion for over 30 years, as well as consulted in these areas. His primary expertise is in shock/boundary-layer interactions and in applications of detonations for aerospace propulsion and in aerodynamics test facilities. Together with Dan Marren, he co-edited an AIAA Progress Series volume entitled Advanced Hypersonic Test Facilities, which was well received by the aero-test community. Dr. Lu earned his degrees from Cambridge, Princeton and Penn State. He is a Life Fellow of AIAA, and a Fellow of ASME and RAeS. He is active in AIAA activities, having served as Editor-in-Chief of the Progress Series and as Vice President of Publications amongst various roles.

Mr. Paul Hagseth, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. Mr. Hagseth is a member of Lockheed Martin's Skunkworks and has worked on a number of fighter and hypersonic research and aircraft programs. In the area of hypersonics, he has managed vehicle design and integration studies including aerodynamic, propulsion integration and thermal/structural design for Mach 4 to 10 vehicles and the National Aerospace Plane Program (NASP). He has also worked on a number of propulsion programs including high Mach gas turbine engines (GTEs), GTE/ramjet, GTE/dual-mode ramjet, ejector and pressure gain combustion cycles as well as air induction and exhaust systems.

Dr. Dennis Finley, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. Dr. Finley is a senior staff engineer at Lockheed Martin. He provides technical leadership and oversight for aerodynamic and stability/control support for a variety of flight vehicle development efforts. He has worked on conceptual, preliminary and flight vehicle projects over a range of speeds from VSTOL to hypersonic speed. Over the course of his 30+ year career Dr. Finley has developed a working knowledge of conceptual methods, linear theory, wind tunnel testing and CFD methods. Besides his work responsibilities Dr. Finley is also serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Dr. Finley is an Associate Fellow in AIAA.

Dr. Kevin Bowcutt, Boeing Research & Technology. Dr. Kevin G. Bowcutt is a Principal Senior Technical Fellow & Chief Scientist of Hypersonics for Boeing with 38 years of experience. He is an AIAA Fellow, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He holds BS, MS and PhD degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. Dr. Bowcutt is an internationally recognized expert in hypersonic aerodynamics, propulsion integration, and vehicle design and optimization. Notable accomplishments include developing the viscous-optimized hypersonic waverider; flight testing scramjets by shooting them from a light gas gun; originating and optimizing the design of the X-51A scramjet-powered demo vehicle; helping the Space Shuttle Columbia accident investigation by simulating wing aero-thermal-structural failure; and leading Boeing’s contributions to the HIFiRE international hypersonic flight experiment program. In the spring semester of 2007 Dr. Bowcutt was a visiting professor at Princeton University’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department where he taught a course in hypersonic airplane design. Dr. Bowcutt leads Boeing’s advanced design efforts for hypersonic missiles, airplanes and space-planes, and is the technical lead for Boeing’s hypersonic passenger airplane program.