Purdue Gets $5.9M Contract to Develop Mach 8 Wind Tunnel

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The Transonic Wind Tunnel at Langley Research Center
A technician prepares to unlatch a small door built into the guide vanes of the Transonic Wind Tunnel at Langley Research Center in 2010. (NASA)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — The Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded Purdue University a $5.9 million contract to develop the world’s first Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel — a device capable of operating at eight times the speed of sound.

The new Mach 8 wind tunnel will be experimental and designed to collect information at speeds greater than Mach 6 wind tunnels, which operate at a rate six times the speed of sound.

Purdue, which is already home to one of only two working Mach 6 quiet wind tunnels in the U.S., will collaborate with the University of Notre Dame to develop the new wind tunnel.

Purdue was awarded the Mach 8 contract in June 2019, but the school did not publicly announce the project until Tuesday, after it was cleared to do so by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

The faster speeds of the Mach 8 wind tunnel will allow Purdue and various contractors and private companies to conduct tests in an environment similar to flight, the Journal & Courier reported.

The new tunnel’s hypersonic design could be used on missiles, jet planes, rockets and other aircraft.

Once built, the Mach 8 wind tunnel will be housed near Zucrow Laboratories in the Aerospace District on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus.

"It will be a major achievement if we can get it (Mach 8) working, and that will be quite a challenge,” said Purdue research scientist Brandon Chynoweth.

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