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A University of Central Florida team was recently awarded $500,000 from the Department of Defense via the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics (UCAH) to address disturbances that vehicles encounter in hypersonic conditions. The project is led by Dr. Subith Vasu, a professor at the University of Central Florida and an expert in spectroscopy and optical diagnostics.

When pointed to the ground, most laser guidance will form a straight line at a lower speed, but this line can be distorted with hypersonic vehicles. The impact of this research will help quantify the deviation of laser guidance in hypersonic flight and assist with proper guidance and navigation for hypersonic vehicles.

This study will use laser beams within a hypersonic environment to learn how electromagnetic waves propagate, thus imitating the disturbances vehicles may experience in hypersonic conditions. These disturbances cause issues in communication, guidance and control of hypersonic vehicles. One of the challenges in this type of research is the constant need to test higher and higher Mach numbers to get more accurate information.

The models for this project are from UCAH’s industry partner, Combustion Research and Flow Technology Inc. (CRAFT), which also provides models for the Department of Defense. One of the benefits of this partnership is that the University of Central Florida will conduct research that will validate the models created by CRAFT. Additionally, Florida State University is also partnering with the University of Central Florida and providing its shock tube tunnel facilities.

Vasu explained that “(This) is a very well-structured project that has university and industry involvement, as well as the transition aspect. It has definite tasks for each partner and differs from the usual research, where universities do some work, and then that research just stays as university work and is not taken up by the industry or the government.”

This research will continue to break ground in hypersonic guidance and accuracy and help improve communication and control with more targeted lasers. This awarded project will also assist in building a diverse hypersonic workforce, as the University of Central Florida is a minority-serving institution. More and more students from diverse backgrounds will have an opportunity to partner with and be recruited into this research and similar research.