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The New 1.6 MW Plasma Arc-Heated Hypersonic Wind Tunnel at UTA: An Overview of this ONR-DARPA Co-Sponsored Project

Friday, February 16, 2018, 2:00 PM
Woolf Hall Room 402

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Luca Maddalena, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


For more than 40 years, arc-jet testing has served as primary basis for characterizing Thermal Protection Systems (TPS) in support of material development and response model validation. Arc-jet facilities provide the only ground-based means of simulating hypersonic heating rates and heating loads (planetary entry, re-entry, and hypersonic cruise) in a reacting flow environment under flight-relevant conditions. Arc-jet facilities provide a platform for understanding complex non-equilibrium aerothermodynamics phenomena, gas-surface interactions, and developing detail material response models that can reduce uncertainty and the magnitude of TPS thickness margins. Arc-jets are also essential to investigate mechanical failure modes including erosion, spallation, and losses related to shear effects. DARPA and ONR have jointly funded Prof. Maddalena’s research group for the design and the construction of a national-level hypersonic research facility (the only one operated in U.S. by an academic institution) for high-temperature materials development and characterization. The new facility allows for critical high-shear conditions to be reproduced in a more realistic environment, and the design has been centered on full optical access for detailed flow and gas-surface interaction characterization.The talk will be centered on presenting significant aspects of this project as well as an overview of the current progress in the development of the new facility


Luca Maddalena earned his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech. Prior to joining the UTA faculty, he was a postdoctoral scholar at the Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories of the California Institute of Technology. Maddalena has received early tenure and promotion at UTA where he is currently an Associate Professor and a member of the Aerodynamics Research Center. He directs and supervises research and testing activities conducted in the unique 2MW-class arc-jet complex and other high-speed wind tunnels. His research, primarily experimental, focuses on fundamental investigations of mixing and combustion in turbulent supersonic flows, and their application to hypersonic air-breathing propulsion, and on reusable thermal protection systems and thermal management for sustained hypersonic flight. His research has been funded by NASA Langley Research Center (Hypervelocity Propulsion, Mach 8+), the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for his contribution to the Strike WEApon Program (SWEAP), the Air Force Research Laboratory on the Next Generation Thermal Protection Systems Program, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Recently ONR and DARPA have jointly funded Dr. Maddalena for the design and the construction of a National-Level Hypersonic Research Facility for High-Temperature Materials Development and Characterization. Prof. Maddalena is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and is the Chair of the AIAA Hypersonic Technologies and Aerospace Planes (HyTASP) Technical Committee.

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