AEDC overcomes challenges in missile test

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A recent collaborative-intensive effort at Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) resulted in successful time-sensitive aerodynamic testing of a scale model of the Stunner Missile in the center's von Karman Gas Dynamics Facility Tunnel A.

Stunner is a relatively inexpensive, short-range missile interceptor being jointly developed by the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA). Raytheon Missile Systems partnered with the Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to produce some of the Stunner components and subsystems.

A combination of factors made the timing of the testing particularly critical, according to David Carlson, lead test engineer with Raytheon.

"We needed to get aerodynamic data up to Mach 5.5, and this tunnel and
Boeings' at St. Louis, Mo., are the only tunnels that can hit that and still give us good angles of attack," he said. "This is development (testing) with an initial operations capability that is needed soon."

Prior to this test, tunnel A had been out of commission for two years as a major system upgrade and renovation was getting underway. A team headed by Paul Jalbert, Aerospace Testing Alliance project engineer, had been conducting testing on a Navy Standard Missile model to validate a newly installed state-of-the-art model inject system in the tunnel when plant problems had delayed the final checkout tests.

To meet the Stunner's tight testing schedule, the checkout of the tunnel's new model inject system was completed using the Stunner model.

A model inject system is an electro-mechanical system for moving an aircraft or missile model through a range of pitch, roll and yaw positions during an aerodynamic test in the tunnel.

"We worked with the Raytheon and Rafael customers to use their model with that same data to save time and schedule," said Win Phipps, the Air Force Project Manager for AEDC on the Stunner test. "A test like this one, before the model inject system, would have cost twice as much in time and schedule because of the high angle of attack that's required for this model, it would have required two installations, thus doubling the schedule and the cost for the test. This model inject system gives us a great new capability."

An MDA senior missile system engineer said the goal of the test was to gather information that would be entered into a simulation database to support subsequent flight testing of the Stunner missile.

"We were capturing the aerodynamic forces and moments on this airframe, simulating what it would experience as it flies out on its mission," he said. "Those forces and moments are entered into our six degree-of-freedom simulation and will model the vehicle aerodynamic accelerations and body rotational dynamics during flight. We're gathering data to address airframe controllability throughout the flight envelope and characterization of airframe maneuverability throughout the battle space."

Carlson, who used to work at AEDC, sent an email expressing his appreciation to the team at AEDC for their collective efforts to meet test requirements under the stringent time constraints.

"Thank you for all your work in making this test happen," he said. "Our program manager, Adam Cherrill, is delighted at the success of the test and the single-minded teamwork of AEDC, ATA, MDA, Rafael and Raytheon."