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Centre for Hypersonics and Rocketry

The Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences’ Hypersonics and Rocketry team conducts research for a variety of funding bodies including defence and aerospace industries through domestic and international collaborations in the United Kingdom, Europe and USA. 

Through expertise in ground testing, optical remote diagnostics, and modelling and simulation, the group has an extensive research track record spanning the full spectrum from fundamental hypersonic research to hypersonic vehicle applications.  

This fast-paced work is a key part of the University of Southern Queensland-led Launch, Automation, Novel Materials, Communications, and Hypersonics (iLAuNCH) as part of the Australian Government Trailblazer Universities Program.

Themes and Projects

Title: Dispersion of spacecraft components during re-entry 
Leader: Professor David Buttsworth 
Project Team: Associate Professor Fabian Zander | Dr Ingo Jahn | Flynn Hack | Gerard Armstrong 
Project Partners: UNSW 
Funding Body: Australian Research Council

Hypersonic wind tunnel experiments and computational simulations will be performed to enhance our understanding of how spacecraft components are dispersed during re-entry.  Through this new knowledge, Australia will be positioned to meaningfully engage in the global management of destructive re-entries of spacecraft to achieve outcomes that respect our sovereign interests.

Title: Novel Testing of a Supersonic Airbreathing Rotating Detonation Engine 
Leader: Associate Professor Fabian Zander 
Project Team: Maciej Grybko 
Funding Body: Australian Research Council
Rotating detonation engines have the potential provide improved performance when compared to regular combustion engines. Although commonly demonstrated in a rocket configuration, this project is investigating the next stage of developed by looking at an airbreathing RDE for testing in the UniSQ TUSQ facility.

Title: Fluid-thermal-structural interactions on high-speed aerospace vehicles 
Leader: Professor David Buttsworth 
Project Partners: UNSW ( 
Funding Body: Australian Research Council  

Robust and efficient designs for light-weight hypersonic vehicles must address the problem of aerodynamic heating and its effect on structural performance. This project will design and perform first-of-kind experiments that reproduce the complex fluid-thermal-structural interactions representative of those experienced by these aircraft and rockets.

Title: Australian Airborne Observation of the Hayabusa2 Re-Entry Capsule
Leader: Associate Professor Fabian Zander
Project Team: Professor David Buttsworth | Dr Byrenn Birch | Associate Professor Duncan Wright | Lachlan Noller
Project Partners: RTI
Funding Body: RTI

This mission demonstrated the rapid response capability of the UniSQ and RTI relationship to undertake airborne observation missions of aerospace phenomena. The mission was planned and executed in 8 days. Detailed spectral measurements of the Hayabusa2 capsule were taken and analysed resulting in knowledge of the capsules surface temperature and the radiating gas in the shock layer.

Title: Airborne Observation of the Tau Herculids Meteor Shower
Leader: Associate Professor Fabian Zander
Project Team: Professor David Buttsworth
Project Partners: RTI | IMCCE | HEFDiG | Comenius University
Funding Body: RTI

An airborne observation of the Tau-Herculids meteor shower was undertaken, flying from Forth Worth Texas. An international team led by UniSQ and RTI captured a range of imaging and spectroscopy measurements of the meteor shower. A significantly larger number of meteors were imaged from the aircraft than from the ground

Title: Remote diagnostics for space-access flight testing
Leader: Professor David Buttsworth
Project Team: Associate Professor Fabian Zander
Project Partners: RTI | DLR | Southern Launch | Hypersonix
Funding Body: Australian Research Council

Aerospace flight testing is essential for assessing the reliability of space-access technologies including re-usable rockets and hypersonic air-breathing systems. This project develops the essential optical diagnostic tools and techniques and establishes an enduring capability for space-access flight testing in Australia.

Title: HORIS - Hypervelocity OSIRIS-REx Imaging and Spectroscopy
Leader: Associate Professor Fabian Zander
Project Team: Dr Andrew Lock | Gerard Armstrong | Flynn Hack | Dr Tamara Sopek | Sam Lock (UQ) | Nathan Lu (UQ) | Scott Gray (RTI) | Rick Pegus (Navair) | Dr Byrenn Birch | Mr Jeremy Moran | Stefan Loehle (HEFDiG) | Professor David Buttsworth | Ingo Jahn | Peter Jacobs | Dr Craig Lobsey | Maciej Grybko | Simon Castles | Martin Eberhart (HEFDiG) | Felix Grigat (HEFDiG) | Toby van der Herik (UQ) | Benjamin Fernando (Johns Hopkins)
Project Partners: NASA, University Stuttgart, University of Queensland
Funding Body: RTI | iLAuNCH

On September 24th 2023 the NASA capsule, OSIRIS-REx, returned from the asteroid Bennu safely bringing back dust samples. The 12km/s re-entry was observed by a team of over 50 scientists from around the world. UniSQ and RTI lead a team including personnel on a NASA aircraft, our own aircraft with instruments, and three ground stations. This daytime re-entry provided many imaging challenges, however, successful data was captured across a whole range of instruments. Data analysis is now on-going. 

Title: Expanding the scramjet operating envelope through oxygen enrichment  
Leader: Dr Ingo Jahn  
Project Partners: UQ | Hypersonix  
Funding Body: Australian Research Council  
The project aims to establish the benefits of oxygen enrichment for expanding the operating range of hydrogen-fuelled hypersonic air-breathing vehicles to higher altitudes and augmenting thrust at high speeds.

Title: Co-design and dynamic mission optimisation of hypersonic flight vehicles   

Leader: Dr Ingo Jahn 
Project Partners: UniMelb | BAE Systems  
Funding Body: Australian Research Council  
This project will develop key competencies and tools for design and control of next-generation hypersonic vehicles and train the future workforce. We will develop fundamental insights into the contributing disciplines of control systems, optimisation and fluid dynamics and new methods to simultaneously optimise vehicle geometry, trajectory, and control system that remain computationally tractable.


Phone: +61 7 4631 2614
Director:  Professor David Buttsworth