HyCUBE Overview

Hypersonic Configurable Unit Ballistic Experiment (HyCUBE) is a revolutionary test and evaluation (T&E) method for conducting hypersonic flight tests that will greatly improve our understanding of high-speed aerodynamics.

HyCUBE Mission Profile

HyCUBE is a CubeSat-like vehicle that is deliberately de-orbited to record hypersonic flight data during re-entry into the atmosphere.  During re-entry it transmits hypersonic flight test data to the ground until it either burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere or is destroyed by impact with the ocean.

HyCUBE promises to provide new ways of probing hypersonic flow conditions at high Mach numbers (M = 5 to 20) and over a large range of altitudes (50-100 km). It will provide a flexible and cost-effective way of conducting a large and statistically significant number of flight tests at the same time or in close succession.

A single HyCUBE or a heterogeneously instrumented swarm has the potential to advance the science of hypersonic aerodynamics in multiple ways including: Characterization of temperature, surface pressure, radiative heating, and plasma concentration along the vehicle flight path; testing of material heating and ablation; surface catalysis; effectiveness of control surfaces as well as hypersonic navigation and control strategies; non-equilibrium gas effects; radio blackout; and other novel measurement strategies.

This project seeks to fabricate the first HyCUBE flight unit thereby validating this revolutionary hypersonic flight-testing concept. In addition to advancing the state of art in hypersonic flight testing, the effort to fabricate the HyCUBE flight unit presents a unique opportunity for workforce development. It will be used to provide the next generation of engineers and scientists an authentic, hands-on experience in the art of designing aerospace systems and conducting hypersonic flight tests.

Sponsor:  Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)

Stake Holders:  NASA Ames Research Center & Air Force Research Labs (AFRL)