Purdue, foundation to build hypersonic technologies center at West Lafayette’s Aerospace District

Purdue University and the Purdue Research Foundation announced plans Monday to build a test center to house some of the world’s most advanced hypersonic technologies as part of the school’s Aerospace District, which is adjacent to the West Lafayette campus.

Purdue—which has developed a specialty in the study and creation of ultra-fast technologies—and the Purdue Research Center will pay for the construction of the Hypersonic Ground Test Center, although officials did not identify the cost or say how large the building it will be. Purdue President Mitch Daniels said during the announcement that the school “will invest millions of our dollars” into the facility.

The center will be administered by a new not-for-profit consortium of national defense industry organizations that will manage capital and operational costs. Rolls-Royce North America will be the first aerospace industry member of the consortium.

A Purdue spokesman said the size of the facility and its cost will be finalized by the consortium.

Purdue announcement the project at a two-day Hypersonics Summit it is hosting on campus with the National Defense Industrial Association. The announcement is the latest of several for the Purdue Aerospace District.

On July 27, Purdue and the Purdue Research Foundation announced plans for a $41 million, 65,000-square-foot facility to house the world’s only Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel as well as a hypersonic pulse shock tunnel. Then on Aug. 2, Rolls-Royce announced it will significantly expand its footprint in the Purdue Aerospace District by adding 50,000 square feet of testing facilities there. It did not put a price tag on that project.

“At Purdue, we’re committed to research at the very frontiers of science, especially when it can contribute to the national security of Americans,” Purdue President Mitch Daniels said in a statement released Monday. “Becoming home to the nation’s premier hypersonics facilities can make such a contribution, while providing enormous new opportunities for our researchers, aspiring entrepreneurs, and job seeking graduates.”

The Hypersonic Ground Test Center will house two separate testing options. Partners can conduct tests in the 3.5-5.0 Mach range or the 4.5-7.5 Mach range. Mach is a measure of speed, and Mach 1 is the speed of sound.

Mach 5 equals roughly 3,800 miles per hour, meaning a Mach 5 plane could cross the Atlantic Ocean in two hours. Mach 7 is nearly 5,400 miles per hour.

The center will allow multiple companies to undertake work simultaneously on site, Purdue said, while being ensured protection of intellectual property and sensitive work. The facilities will be available for long-term lease to allow guaranteed, timely access for contractors to conduct tests at their preferred schedule and duration, officials said.

Tom Bell, CEO of Rolls-Royce North America, said the company has a unique history in high-speed propulsion, dating to the Concorde aircraft and 30 years of experience on hypersonics research with our Department of Defense customers through the LibertyWorks advanced technology unit in Indianapolis.

“We are keenly interested in the area of hypersonic propulsion and currently exploring development of advanced supersonic and high-Mach propulsion systems with our customers,” Bell said in a statement.

The center’s proposed design, capabilities and requirements were developed by Zionsville -based NineTwelve, in coordination with the Purdue Research Foundation.

“We need to do more than match our peer competitors, we need to leapfrog them quickly,” said Mark Lewis, chief scientific advisor to NineTwelve and executive director of the Emergency Technology Institute, a nonpartisan think tank focused on technology critical to the future of national defense. “This facility will help us make that happen.”

Mark Lewis, executive director of the Emerging Technology Institute, a nonpartisan think tank focused on technology critical to the future of national defense, said in a statement that the Purdue center will help

Purdue Research Foundation CEO Brian Edelman said building the Hypersonic Ground Test Center would not be possible “without a recent multimillion-dollar investment to further expand facilities in the Purdue Aerospace District. That investment from Rolls-Royce, the university and PRF, along with support from the state, West Lafayette, Lafayette and Tippecanoe County, laid the foundation for creating the HGTC.”

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