Kyle Long, first year master’s student in aerospace engineering, uses speeds equivalent to traveling the distance of six football fields in one second to test his handmade missile.
The engineers are using a generic missile model that is equipped with an air jet on the side, Long said.
The model weighs about five or six ounces and is made up of aluminum. The jet is simply a straight cylindrical chamber where compressed air is forced through.
“The unique part of our lab is the high-speed laser system that we built ourself called the Pulse Burst Laser System,” said Brian Thurow, associate professor for aerospace engineering, Long’s faculty adviser and manager of the ALD lab. “It is capable of producing high-energy laser pulses at a repetition rate over 1,000,000 pulses per second.”
Long said they are not able to use a turbine jet because the model is too small and there are size restrictions.
The small missile is placed in the Blowdown Wind Tunnel, which is a four-by-four-inch tunnel where 1,200 mph winds flow past its contours.
The jet on the missile is then turned on and the high-speed camera starts rolling, filming and taking data throughout the experiment.
Long said he and his colleagues have an advanced system of high-speed laser video coverage to view the flight at a low speed.
This technology is not cheap.
“The most interesting part of the lab and what makes Auburn unique to even NASA is that we have about $500,000 worth of advanced lasers that we can use (to capture the flight pattern),” Long said. “Only about two other places in the world have these lasers.”
There are only four of these lasers in all.
The laser operates with 68 pulse bursts.
The 68 laser pulses happen within one ten-thousandth of a second (.0001 second).
The high-speed camera is synced with the laser so that every time the laser pulses, a frame is captured by the camera. The laser bursts are slowed to 24 frames per second where the Mach 2 flight is then viewed at slow speed and carefully analyzed by Long and his colleagues.
Abhishek Bichal, doctorate student in aerospace engineering, and Zach Reid, second year master’s student in aerospace engineering, help Long with his research.
“This research here is funding Kyle’s schooling,” Reid said.
The funds for the research come from the U.S. Department of Defense.
“We are just looking at the interactions from the jet on the wing for the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force,” Bichal said.