A researcher looks into Raytheon Missiles and Defense's Tanning Bed, a test chamber designed to augment hypersonic testing.

A researcher looks into Raytheon Missiles and Defense's Tanning Bed, a test chamber designed to augment hypersonic testing. PHOTO COURTESY OF RAYTHEON MISSILES & DEFENSE

Raytheon Technologies Speeds Hypersonic Testing with Adaptable ‘Tanning Bed’ Technology

As the global race for hypersonics gains speed, complementary novel laboratory test methods can help.

On a global scale, interest in hypersonic flight is heating up.

As the U.S. looks to remain on par with peer competitors delving deep into research and testing of hypersonic weapons, defense agencies and contractors are making good headway demonstrating concepts such as the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept.

But as the U.S. looks to ramp up R&D for hypersonics, it must keep pace with testing the technology — a difficult task when accommodating weapons that reach speeds above Mach 5 and create intense temperatures that bend and contort most durable materials.

“For very complicated systems where you’re pushing the edges of your knowledge and technology, like hypersonics, you want to learn as much as you can before you put the vehicle into the air,” says Adam Wood, an engineering fellow at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, who focuses on mechanical analysis and testing. “Hypersonic flight induces extreme levels of heating and air pressure on the vehicles; you need to ensure an airframe won’t distort or deform under those conditions and that its internal architecture can hold up to the stress.”

The Challenges of Hypersonic Testing

While testing is crucial to ensure the technology can endure the rigors of actual flight demonstrations without bending, warping or losing control, test locations are highly limited. In fact, high-temperature wind tunnels, like the one crafted by NASA in Langley, Virginia, are currently among the only places available to test hypersonics. And, while Wood emphasizes that high-temperature, high-pressure wind-tunnels like the one at NASA are amazing feats of engineering and “a national asset,” with interest and scrutiny increasing, hypersonic testing sites are quickly becoming crowded.

“You can think of these as being like a really popular wedding venue: You have to make reservations far in advance, and if you're not ready on the day that you reserved it, you have to get back in line,” Wood says.

That type of arrangement can, understandably, slow timelines and hinder R&D. Moreover, even advanced wind tunnels like NASA’s are limited in terms of dynamic condition testing.

“As a vehicle flies through the air, just like on a commercial flight, the conditions are constantly changing,” Wood says. “Heating rates, distribution, pressure, that's all changing. The wind tunnel can't do all that variation; it can only reproduce one condition at a time.”

While the wind tunnel can generate different conditions, it can only produce one per test. And given that a tunnel can usually run one to two tests per day, that can prove limiting for testers.

Speeding Hypersonic Testing with the Tanning Bed

So, as the U.S. looks to move full speed ahead with hypersonics, how can it get the testing environment up to pace?

Enter Raytheon’s “tanning bed” technology, a more modular, mobile way to test some elements of hypersonic flight that aims to complement wind-tunnel testing and help speed R&D.

What is the tanning bed? Picture a metal box filled with high-power quartz lamps that replicate the complex, dynamic distribution of temperatures across a missile as it flies at hypersonic speed. The challenge Raytheon engineers faced was assembling and controlling these components so their output matched the complex, dynamic thermal environment a hypersonic missile would see in flight. The result was a configurable test capability that could be used to conduct hypersonic tests in its own lab, quickly and easily, and then adapt the design before it gets locked down for fabrication of flight hardware.

“Because it is modular and mobile, we can move it from lab to lab, from building to building at any given plant site or even from plant site, to plant site. We can bring the test to the people, instead of having to have them move the hardware to the test,” says Wood, noting the tanning bed can be broken down into pieces the size of a washing machine on wheels.

Moreover, the tanning bed can provide valuable dynamic heat testing.

“One of the things that the tanning bed can do that a wind tunnel can't is it can replicate the time history of the flight for the heating,” Wood says. Much like a large toaster oven, testing teams can “turn the dial” on temperature throughout a test to reproduce more realistic flight conditions, he says.

The tanning bed can help supplement wind-tunnel testing, allowing testers to move forward with design iterations around heating effects quicker and make the best use of their time with pressure testing in the wind tunnel. Ultimately, that means Raytheon can move hypersonic testing into hyperdrive.

The biggest opportunity for the tanning bed is faster learning, Wood says. Because the technology is modular, customizable and generic, it allows for faster configuration of a high-temperature test for different designs.

“We don't have to wait for custom fixtures to be designed for new test hardware to arrive, be assembled and tested out,” Wood adds. “It truly saves us on cost for each new design that we want to test. All that time that we save is time we can spend learning.”

Learn more about Raytheon’s hypersonic technology.

This content is made possible by our sponsor, Raytheon. The editorial staff of Defense One was not involved in its preparation.

NEXT STORY: Mission: Space

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.