Reports have suggested that China is currently building the world’s fastest wind tunnel. The facility could be able to simulate conditions for hypersonic flight testing. It reportedly also has the ability to bolster the country’s futuristic weapons development programme.
It is believed that the upcoming facility, which is tipped to open in around 2020, will create testing conditions for aircraft which are set to reach speeds of around 12km per second or about Mach 35. A jet traveling at this speed could fly from China to the American West Coast in 14 minutes.
As the report in local media stated the testing facility would enable ground-based trials. This would reduce the possibility of failure by downscaling the risks linked with the air-based hypersonic tests.
The advanced tunnel is also set to be developed by the same team who built JF-12 a hypersonic wind tunnel in China. The tunnel can imitate flight conditions at speeds varying from Mach 5 to Mach 9.
According to a senior scientist working on the project, Zhao Wei, the new tunnel will enhance the engineering application of hypersonic technology. He said that it may be used in the military sectors to mimic the environments surrounding hypersonic flights.
The aim of the tunnel will be to solve problems on the ground. The LENX-X facility is currently, the world’s fastest wind tunnel and is situated at the Calspan-University. The tunnel is capable of operating at 10km per second or Mach 30 and has been used to run tests for Nasa’s Orion spacecraft.
The upcoming competition from China will boast a large chamber. It will also have enough space to accommodate an aircraft with a wingspan of 3 meters. In their simulations of hypersonic flight, researchers will trigger a series of explosions. They will do this by detonating a mixture of gases including hydrogen and nitrogen.
By doing this they will generate approximately one gigawatt of power. Shockwaves which result from the explosions will be channeled into the test chamber. This will expose prototype aircraft to extreme conditions including heat reaching over 7,000 degrees Celcius. This will be far beyond the temperatures reached on the surface of the sun.
China has been pushing the development of hypersonic capabilities in an effort to gain an edge over other nations. Last year the country completed its seventh test of DZ-ZF, its hypersonic glider. However, the US has also been hard at work developing its hypersonic technologies.
According to reports the Air Force Chief Scientist, Geoffrey Zacharias has said that America’s hypersonic surveillance is on track and could be effective in the 2030’s. According to Wu Dafang, a professor at the School of Aeronautic Science and Engineering at Beihang University situated in Beijing, China and the U.S. have started a hypersonic race. He said that he looks forward to the completion of the new tunnel.