19–22 August 2019
JW Marriott, Indianapolis, Indiana

The Future of Hypersonics

Posted: 12 July 2018, 3:15 p.m. EDT

Moderator Moderator David E. Walker, director, Office of Technology, Office of U.S. Naval Research; Douglas Blake, director, Aerospace Systems Directorate, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory; Kevin Bowcutt, chief scientist of hypersonics, Boeing; Rodney Bowersox, professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering, Texas A&M University; Christopher Clay, program manager, Tactical Technology Office, DARPA; Knox Millsaps, director, Division of Aerospace Sciences Acting Head, Air Warfare and Weapons (Code 35), Office of U.S. Naval Research

by Tom Risen, Aerospace America staff reporter

The U.S. aerospace sector can encourage research to benefit the emerging and competitive field of military and even commercial hypersonic flight, a panel of executives and government officials said July 10 at the 2018 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum in Cincinnati.

Hypersonic weapons and military aircraft have been around for 60 years, but advancing the science requires new ways of thinking, said Christopher Clay, program manager of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. Clay encouraged the audience to find the disrupters in their organizations.

“Avoid those people who say they are using best practices, because by definition, a best practice is an old practice,” he said.

The lion’s share of hypersonic research the U.S. Air Force is doing is directed at air-breathing and boost glide expendable vehicles, including missiles, which are “becoming close to operationalized,” said Douglas Blake, director of the Aerospace Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

That research into expendable vehicles must be successful to maintain interest in hypersonic research and to develop techniques that will feed forward to more far-term technologies, including reusable planes, Blake said.

During the AIAA AVIATION Forum in June in Atlanta, Boeing unveiled a concept for a commercial airliner that would travel at Mach 5. Kevin Bowcutt, chief scientist of hypersonics at Boeing, is leading that effort.


Participants in the panel discussion "The Future of Hypersonics Research & Development," July 11 at the 2018 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum in Cincinnati.

“The foundation under which we are working is not as strong as it could be,” Bowcutt said of U.S. hypersonics research. “Hypersonic funding has been very cyclic.”

Bowcutt said people have left the field of hypersonic research because of inconsistent government funding, so he echoed the other speakers in their optimism that hypersonic flight is a priority for Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.

“The hypersonics talent pool must be enlarged,” Bowcutt said, calling for public speaking to encourage students to work with government and industry on hypersonics and for NASA to become more involved in hypersonic flight.

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Dates to Remember

  • Manuscript Deadline: 15 Jul 2019
  • Early Mem Reg Deadline: 28 Jul 2019
  • Cancellation Deadline: 05 Aug 2019

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