“Experiments in T5, one of the GALCIT Hypersonics Group facilities, begin with a siren…to alert the building. Sometimes it’s mistaken for an earthquake warning. A few seconds later the tunnel fires, accelerating gas to the velocities required to simulate planetary entry flows. The gun shot-like sound and vibrations can be heard and felt through the building.”
Joanna Austin, professor of aerospace, uses pistons and explosives in large test tunnels to compress gases. She studies the mechanics involved in compressible flows, which come into play in problems ranging from the logistics of a spacecraft’s entry into a planet’s atmosphere to the hows and whys of volcanic eruptions.
Header photo by GALCIT