Hypersonic vehicles: HERMES project kicks off

A project for the optimisation of design processes funded under the PRIN scheme for Research Projects of National Interest

Hypersonic flight is currently a topic of great interest for both academic research and the modern space industry. Examples of hypersonic vehicles - i.e., travelling at speeds much faster than the speed of sound - include the capsules for the re-entry of astronauts into the Earth's atmosphere, reusable launchers, experimental aircraft for high-altitude flight or capsules launched on sub-orbital trajectories for space tourism.

The HERMES project (Hypersonic Vehicles Enhancement via Robust Multi-fidelity Optimisation for the Exploitation of Space), which recently got underway under the coordination of Giulio Gori and Francesco Bonelli from the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology at Politecnico di Milano, aims to optimise the design processes of this type of vehicle.

To optimise the design and performance of hypersonic vehicles, it is important to develop reliable mathematical models capable of providing accurate predictions of the complex physical phenomena that characterise hypersonic flight. This optimisation process is also inevitably hampered by the many sources of uncertainty due to limitations in scientific knowledge in this area. Consequently, a robust approach to the design of new hypersonic aircraft is required; however, this approach currently entails unacceptable computational costs.

Through the exploitation of mathematical models of varying fidelity, the HERMES project aims to develop new, low computational cost methodologies for the robust optimisation of hypersonic aircraft. The integration of information of different quantity and quality makes it possible to complement the available database and develop more efficient methodologies. The ultimate goal is to innovate the design of hypersonic aircraft, improving their performance and flight efficiency and ultimately reducing the cost of vehicle launching and accessing space.

The HERMES project is funded under PRIN 22 programme for Research Projects of National Interest (Project No. 2022YPMRNW).