Bowcutt, Kevin G. The Boeing Company, Phantom Works, Huntington Beach, California.
Last reviewed:December 2019
- Critical technologies for hypersonic flight
- Design challenge
- Flight experiment and demonstration programs
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Vehicles that travel at hypersonic speed, which is commonly taken to mean five times the speed of sound or faster. There is no sharp boundary between supersonic flight—defined precisely as traveling faster than the speed of sound (Mach one)—and hypersonic flight. Instead, hypersonic speed is more nebulously defined as traveling fast enough that strong shock waves and friction in the gas through which a body travels raise the gas temperature high enough that it begins to chemically react (for example, oxygen and nitrogen dissociate from naturally occurring diatomic molecules into atomic species) and at higher speeds even to ionize (when electrons are stripped from gas molecules) and emit significant radiation. At hypersonic speed the heating of vehicle body surfaces due to air friction also becomes significant and can heat those surfaces to extreme temperatures. See also: Mach number; Hypersonic flight; Shock wave
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