Hypersonic tunnel at Bush Combat Center to be built in two, half-kilometer phases
BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Imagine you are engineering an enclosed, precisely instrumented, kilometer-long testing range to study objects as they travel faster than you could blink, at temperatures hotter than you could survive.
Imagine nobody has ever engineered or built anything before at such a large scale. Imagine that your success is widely seen as important to the future security of the United States.
You are imagining the real-world challenges faced by The Texas A&M University System as it prepares for construction of the Ballistic, Aero-optics and Materials (BAM) Test Range, part of the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex (BCDC) on the RELLIS Campus.
The Texas A&M System Board of Regents Thursday approved a plan to build BAM in two phases. Phase one is planned to be 500 meters long. Construction is scheduled to start in April and be substantially completed by the end of 2022. It will cost $38.6 million.
Phase one will be able to operate continuously while phase two is being built. Phase two, which will complete the kilometer length, is expected to cost about $22 million. It will be operational in late 2023 or early 2024.
U.S. military leaders eagerly await BAM to help advance innovation of hypersonic vehicle systems and laser technology.
“BAM will be a world-class engineering feat,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System. “It’s one of the big reasons the nation’s military and defense industry are turning to us for innovation.”
Completion of phase one alone will make BAM the largest enclosed hypersonics testing range in the U.S. It will give aerospace engineers and other experts in the field enormous new capacity for applied research and testing.
Phase-one experiments also will inform decision-making to ensure phase two is engineered in the best ways possible, ways that maximize the added capabilities that come with the full kilometer length.
“This two-phase approach is the responsible way ahead,” said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor for engineering and national laboratories of the Texas A&M System. “No one has ever constructed a kilometer-long facility like this before. It’s in the national interest that we proceed both quickly and carefully.”
BAM will bridge a critical gap in U.S. research capacity between lab-scale experiments and open-range tests, which can cost tens of millions of dollars per test.
Each phase of BAM will be two meters in diameter and contain a hypersonic rail-guided range; directed energy and laser diagnostics; and the capability to test how certain protective materials can withstand hypervelocity impacts.
BAM is one of the four interconnected facilities being built for the BCDC. They were designed in consultation with the military and the defense industry to create an ecosystem for innovation like no other in the U.S.
The BCDC will host experiments and demonstrations by researchers from Texas A&M University, other leading universities, the U.S. Army, other military branches, federal agencies, defense contractors and tech entrepreneurs.
The BCDC is the result of a 2019 cooperative agreement between the U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC) and The Texas A&M University System, the State of Texas and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES.)
Last month the Department of Defense (DOD) selected TEES to lead a national consortium among more than 40 top U.S. universities to modernize hypersonic flight capabilities.
The University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics (UCAH) will work closely with key research institutions of government, national laboratories, federally funded research centers and industry. TEES will manage the DOD investment of up to $100 million over five years.
About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.
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