Diagnostic Instruments for Hypersonics

ITAC, in conjunction with the University of Notre Dame (UND), provides optical instruments for non-intrusive off-body measurements in hypersonic flight experiments to enhance the understanding of high-speed flows for improved prediction and design.

Boundary Layer Instrument

Boundary Layer Instrument

The Boundary Layer Instrument provides direct measurement of boundary-layer state (laminar/turbulent) and thickness, local flow speed and density, as well as inferred measurements of local Mach number and air temperature.

Air Data Probe

Air Data Probe

ITAC’s Air Data Probe provides direct measurement of the three components of velocity of the flight vehicle, with flow-angle errors of less than 0.2° for hypersonic flight conditions.


At present, no instruments exist to measure boundary-layer parameters in hypersonic flight test. Computational models require validation data, and ground-test facilities cannot generate the required conditions. No reliable on-board instruments are available for measuring freestream flow components. Ground-based tracking measurements are typically used instead.

ITAC’s instruments use Laser induced breakdown (LIB) spark as illumination source. The Air data probe is based on optical/thermal-tufting technique to measure 3-components of freestream velocity. Innovative aero-optic techniques are used for determining vehicle boundary-layer properties.

  • Successfully demonstrated instrument performance from subsonic up to M∞ = 4.38.
  • Freestream velocity measured with ± 4 m/s uncertainty (2s) on all 3 velocity components, or ± 0.2o accuracy for M∞ > 4.
  • Confirmed ability to measure boundary-layer parameters up to M∞ = 4.38.
  • Completed instrument layout and specifications with possible hardware options.
  • Current TRL 4; planned TRL 6 in two years

  • Target Acquisition Program Hypersonic International Flight Research and Experimentation (HIFiRE).
  • Enhanced ability to measure flow environment will facilitate in-flight optimization of resource-intensive flight tests.

  • Diagnostic capability for nonintrusive dynamic measurement of local flowfield parameters in high-speed flight research experiments.
  • Knowledge and diagnostic capabilities derived from this effort should be of considerable benefit to the commercial space launch enterprise.

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