A 265-meter-long hypersonic wind tunnel is being developed by the State Key Laboratory of High-Temperature Gas Dynamics, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences to help with the development of space planes. A hypersonic aircraft could travel at speeds of up to up to 12 kilometers per second, enabling it fly from China to the west coast of the United States in less than 14 minutes.
“The 265-meter-long tunnel can be used to test hypersonic aircraft that can travel at speeds of up to Mach 25 (30, 625 kph), 25 times the speed of sound,” Han Guilai, a researcher with the lab stated.
Zhao Wei, a senior scientist working on the project, said researchers intend to have the facility up and running by around 2020 to meet the pressing demand of China’s hypersonic weapon development program.
“It will boost the engineering application of hypersonic technology, mostly in military sectors, by duplicating the environment of extreme hypersonic flights, so problems can be discovered and solved on the ground,” said Zhao.
Currently, the world’s most powerful wind tunnel is America’s LENX-X facility in Buffalo, New York, which operates at speeds of up to 10 kilometers per second — 30 times the speed of sound. Other countries including Russia, India and Australia have also tested some early prototypes of the hypersonic aircraft, which could be used to deliver missiles including nuclear weapons.
“China and the US have started a hypersonic race,” said Wu Dafang, professor at the school of aeronautic science and engineering at Beihang University in Beijing.