Hypersonic aeronautics research using the Pegasus® air-launched space booster is described. Two areas are discussed in the paper; previously obtained results from Pegasus flights 1 and 2, and plans for future programs. Proposed future research includes boundary-layer transition studies on the airplane-like first stage and also use of the complete Pegasus launch system to boost a research vehicle to hypersonic speeds.
Pegasus flight 1 and 2 measurements were used to evaluate the results of several analytical aerodynamic design tools applied during the development of the vehicle as well as to develop hypersonic flight-test techniques. These data indicated that the aerodynamic design approach for Pegasus was adequate and showed that acceptable margins were available. Additionally, the correlations provide insight into the capabilities of these analytical tools for more complex vehicles in which design margins may be more stringent.
Near-term plans to conduct hypersonic boundary-layer transition studies are discussed. These plans involve the use of a smooth metallic glove at about the mid-span of the wing. Longer term opportunities are proposed which identify advantages of the Pegasus launch system to boost large-scale research vehicles to the real-gas hypersonic flight regime.