The U.S. Department of Defense has picked Texas A&M University to lead a five-year, $100-million national research initiative focused on hypersonic technology.
The initiative, called the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics, will focus on hypersonic flight systems. Hypersonic refers to projectiles that can travel Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, or faster.
Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, an engineering research agency of the university, will manage the five-year initiative, which allocates $20 million per year for the consortium.
The announcement comes amid a recent boom in defense technology in Texas. It follows the news that Texas A&M and Austin-based Army Futures Command will partner to build the biggest enclosed hypersonic testing range in the nation as part of the George H. W. Bush Combat Development Complex on the university’s RELLIS campus. Futures Comman is a public-private initiative created to lead modernization projects for the U.S. Army.
For the latest initiative, Texas A&M will lead a cooperative that includes 45 universities, as well as research institutions run by the government, national laboratories and other federally funded research centers.
Gillian Bussey, director of the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office for the Department of Defense, said the consortium will bring together some of the nation’s best minds and researchers.
“In choosing Texas A&M we weren’t choosing a contractor. We ended up getting a partner and a valuable member of our team,” Bussey said. “They really presented a great proposal that shows they really understand what the hypersonics community means and how the university system can affect that.”
The consortium adds to partnerships between Texas universities and defense technology military partnerships. The University of Texas, Texas A&M and Austin Community College currently have partnerships with Army Futures Command and other military initiatives.
Mark Lewis, an acting deputy undersecretary for the Department of Defense, said hypersonics is one of top priorities for the U.S. military, which is working rapidly to develop high-speed weapons.
Lewis said Texas and its universities have risen to the challenge to support research and development of military defense technology. The schools are doing work on a range of technologies that fall in line with the Pentagon’s priorities, such as artificial intelligence, microelectronics and directed energy, he said.
“When we look at Texas we see a special appreciation for the importance of research that is dedicated to the defense of our nation,” Lewis said. “We see incredible support. They understand the importance of technology areas for our warfighter partners and they’ve risen to the challenge.”
Rodney Bowersox, professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M, will lead the university consortium, which will also be guided by a board of experts from Texas A&M, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Arizona, the University of Tennessee Space Institute, Morgan State University, the California Institute of Technology, Purdue, the University of California-Los Angeles and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
“Texas A&M has become the hypersonics research center of the nation,” M. Katherine Banks, Texas A&M vice chancellor and dean of engineering said in a written statement. “Our researchers and partners are unmatched and our new, state-of-the-art facilities will fill critical gaps in U.S. testing capabilities.”
The university’s RELLIS campus, which has many of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station research capabilities, houses the George H. W. Bush Combat Development Complex, which support military research operations. The project’s multimillion-dollar funding plan will make the 2,000 acre campus the Army’s main hub for testing and evaluating future-of-war-technology.
The campus includes plans for a 1 kilometer hypersonic tunnel, which is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022. The tunnel will have the capability to test high energy lasers, hypersonic flight and hypervelocity impact on protective materials.
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