Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Experts say new Purdue hypersonic research facility part of technology race with Russia, China

An artists rendering of a spacecraft using hypersonic technology (Photo courtesy of Purdue University)
Second Bay Studios
An artists rendering of a spacecraft using hypersonic technology (Photo courtesy of Purdue University)

Purdue University unveiled a new, $41 million Hypersonics Applied Research Facility Tuesday.

The facility, located in Discovery Park, will feature high-speed wind tunnels that could be used to test everything from spacecraft re-entry to missile flight.

A number of Purdue and industry experts spoke during a press availability earlier this week about the important part a hypersonic testing facility will play in national security issues.

Mark Lewis is the CEO of the Purdue Applied Research Institute. He said the facility is an essential piece in a growing technology race between the US, Russia, and China.

“We are in a race, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it or not. There are several keys to winning that race,” he said. “One is, of course, to make sure we have the best and the brightest -- the best minds – working in hypersonics.”

Lewis said Purdue students will be an important part of the necessary workforce growth needed to fill jobs in hypersonics research and development.

Hypersonic vehicles can travel roughly five times the speed of sound. Passenger jets, by contrast, travel only about 75% of the speed of sound.

According to a Purdue release, hypersonics are a “top Department of Defense priority to help protect US citizens and to ensure battlefield dominance.”

Reporters asked panelists why it was Purdue’s job to be involved in national security issues at all.

Dan Goldin, a former NASA administrator and founder of a tech advisory company, said that universities should be proud of their work on national defense issues.

“I don't think universities should be apologetic for working with national security,” he said. “There's a new tide, a new sense in America about coming together as Americans to take on the terrible challenges that this country has.”

Other officials noted that the facility represents the merging of academic, industry, and government interests.