Rocket launch at NASA’s Wallops facility advances hypersonic research

The BOLT II science team is led by Texas A&M University with key collaborators from NASA, CUBRC, University of Minnesota, United States Air Force Academy, University of Maryland, University of Arizona and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory; as well as the international collaboration of the Australian Defense Science and Technology Group and the University of Queensland. Additional collaborators were involved.

Additionally, members of the AFRL Aerospace System Leadership team have been instrumental in this project doing much of the heavy lifting ensuring the entire team is able to collect with success the data needed for the experiment.

Strategic partnerships like these are essential to the success of AFRL/AFOSR’s basic research. By creating and supporting highly diverse partnership opportunities like these, AFRL/AFOSR can also provide important pathways to train the next generation of scientists and engineers capable of solving challenging problems and contributing to modernization. future scientific and technological needs of the nation.

Similar to the BOLT I program, BOLT II comprised a symbiotic trio of wind tunnel testing, high-fidelity calculations, and in-flight experience. Wind tunnel and computational data acquired during the BOLT II project informed the design and placement of over 400 sensors to capture the correlations needed to, in turn, improve and validate boundary layer turbulence models.

Unique to BOLT II, ​​this project provided the first-ever full-scale ground test of flight geometry. The post-processing of flight data will be directly compared to the previous entry into the CUBRC LENS II shock tunnel. This facility replicated the Mach number and Reynolds conditions expected for the BOLT II trajectory, but under higher conventional atmospheric disturbance conditions.

“The results from these two data sources provide a first-of-its-kind direct comparison between ground and in-flight experimental conditions with identical hardware. A second full-scale wind tunnel test campaign is being conducted by the University of Queensland, which also compares flight conditions and simulates the vehicle surface heating observed during flight,” Popkin said.

“Words cannot express how grateful and happy I am that we have reached this moment. Absolutely, we wouldn’t be where we are without our incredible team and I’m excited to see what the data will tell us about the high-speed turbulence,” Popkin said.

Dr. Rodney Bowersox, professor of aerospace engineering at TAMU and principal investigator on BOLT II, ​​strongly agrees.

Bowersox said: “I am very grateful to have been part of this great team effort involving several research groups at TAMU, including Dr Helen Reed and Dr Edward White and the group of brilliant students, CUBRC, AFRL, NASA, NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract (NSOROC), Lockheed Martin, other universities, and especially AFRL/AFOSR. I am confident that the data obtained will serve the scientific research community for many years to come. Mike [Holden] would be very proud.

BOLT II exemplifies how the AFRL/AFOSR continues to discover, shape, and champion bold, high-risk, high-reward basic research for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force. As AFRL/AFOSR celebrates 70 years of innovation, this legacy continues through smart investments in fundamental research opportunities that delve into the principles and designs of scientific transformation that pave the way for new inventions, products and capacities. Additionally, BOLT II illustrates the importance of basic research as a long-term investment that requires commitment and a solid strategy. For more information visit:

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