White Papers

Flight Test Instrumentation Solutions for Hypersonic Vehicles

December 15, 2020 | BY: Pat Quinn, Paul Cook, Stephen Willis

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There has been an acceleration in hypersonic vehicle development in recent years, for both passenger aircraft and hypersonic weapons, such as cruise missiles and glide vehicles. Hypersonic vehicles have been around for a long time, with many spaceplanes (notably the space shuttle orbiter) and experimental aircraft having exceeded Mach 5. In fact, the X-15 holds the record for the fasted crewed powered aircraft when it reached Mach 6.70 in 1967. Figure 1 illustrates a selection of aircraft with sustained powered flight in the Earth’s atmosphere (i.e., excluding space vehicles) and the speeds they achieved.


Figure 1: Some notable aircraft and their max recorded/projected speeds.

Today, there are approximately 40 hypersonic craft (aircraft and weapons) proposed or in development around the world. Most of these are spaceplanes, experimental craft, or technology test beds, but there are some intended to eventually carry passengers. One very active application of the technology is for hypersonic weapons. Some recent developments have prompted heavy investment in many countries, particularly the United States, to gain both an offensive and defensive capability. There are many military applications for hypersonic missiles, which are capable of striking a target 1,000 miles away in just 12 minutes.

While the advantages of hypersonic craft are obvious (whether it’s traveling from London to New York in an hour or having advanced strike weapons), achieving such a reality is extremely difficult. Hypersonic vehicles face highly challenging environmental conditions due to their high speeds. This white paper discusses these challenges and proposes how flight test instrumentation (FTI) can aid in overcoming them.

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Author’s Biography

Pat Quinn

Product Line Manager Aerospace Instrumentation

Pat graduated in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Trinity College in 2000. He worked as a PCB Design Engineer in Stratus Technologies, a server company, before joining Acra Controls in 2006, later acquired by Curtiss-Wright, where he spent 5 years in the Design Verification Department before moving to Applications and Support. After a short time away working in an augmented reality company, he re-joined Curtiss-Wright in 2018 as the Product Line Manager for Data Acquisition, looking over the data acquisition product lines in the Newtown and Dublin business units.

Author’s Biography

Paul Cook

Director of Missile Systems, Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

Paul Cook is the Director of Missile Systems at Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions. He has 37 years of extensive design and product line experience in Telemetry Systems. He has held both engineering and management positions in Design & Development, Embedded Encryption, RF Subsystems and Data Links, Engineering & Business Management, and Program Management. He has 34 years of experience in the Telemetry industry and 3 years in Information Assurance Type I CCEP certifications. Paul joined Teletronics in 2007 and in addition, worked in the Telemetry Industry for General Dynamics Corporation, Aydin Corporation, and L-3 Communications Corporation. Paul obtained a BS degree from The College of New Jersey and has various postgraduate courses towards a MBA and Program Management Certifications.

Author’s Biography

Stephen Willis

Marketing Portfolio Manager

Stephen Willis works for Curtiss-Wright in the role of Marketing Portfolio Manager. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering, a Masters in Philosophy for research in mathematical models and their market application for risk assessment and a PG Dip in marketing and management. His current research interests include data acquisition, recording and control systems and their applications in enabling a cost effective route to gathering large amounts of data. In particular, applications of interest include flight test, crash protected recording and structural/ usage monitoring programs. He is the author of several of academic papers and magazine articles.

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