THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) created history on Monday by commissioning the world’s third largest hypersonic wind tunnel at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram.
A wind tunnel is used to study the effects of air flowing past a solid object—in ISRO's case, space vehicles. With the space agency lining up big missions like the ‘Reusable Launch Vehicle’ (RLV), ‘Two Stage to Orbit’ (TSTO) rockets, air breathing propulsion systems, and the human space flight programme for the future, the aero-thermodynamic modelling of such vehicles in a hypersonic environment is vital for optimal designs.
ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar, on Monday, commissioned two facilities—a one-metre Hypersonic Wind Tunnel and a one-metre Shock Tunnel.
''These facilities are the third largest in terms of size and simulation capability in the world. These facilities—named after former ISRO chairman Satish Dhawan—have been indigenously designed, developed and made in India with the support of Indian Industries,'' VSSC said in a statement.
''Commissioning of such facilities would provide adequate data for design and development of current and future Space transportation systems in the country. The commissioning of the facility also symbolises the country’s capability in establishing such world class facilities wherein technology from outside is restricted or not available,'' Kiran Kumar said.
VSSC director K Sivan said the new facility will help aerodynamic characterisation of advanced space transportation systems. Renowned aero-dynamicist, Professor Roddam Narasimha and VSSC Associate Director, S Pandian were present at the commissioning.
The need for wind tunnels and shock tunnels
—Aerospace vehicles fly at high speed, often greater than the speed of sound. Their re-entry through the atmosphere is at high Mach numbers, the modelling of which is intricate
—Hypersonic Wind Tunnel and Shock Tunnel facilities are used to simulate the aero-thermal environment where characterisation of vehicles is carried out. Facilities existing in the country are smaller in size and have limited simulation capabilities
—One metre hypersonic wind tunnel can simulate flow speeds of Mach 6 to 12
—One metre shock tunnel simulates flight speed of 4.5 kilometres per second