Military Embedded Systems

DARPA seeks designs to cool super-hot hypersonic vehicles


December 19, 2018

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

DARPA seeks designs to cool super-hot hypersonic vehicles

ARLINGTON, Va. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently announced its Materials Architectures and Characterization for Hypersonics (MACH) program, which seeks to develop and demonstrate new design and material solutions for sharp, shape-stable, cooled leading edges for hypersonic vehicles. DARPA will hold a Proposers Day describing the program on January 22, 2019 in Arlington, Virginia.

Hypersonic vehicles, say DARPA officials, fly through the atmosphere at very high speeds -- Mach 5 or above, or five times faster than the speed of sound -- creating intense friction with the surrounding air. Developing structures, especially for the leading edges of these vehicles, that can withstand furnace-like temperatures at such high speeds is a technical challenge.

“For decades people have studied cooling the hot leading edges of hypersonic vehicles but haven’t been able to demonstrate practical concepts in flight,” said Bill Carter, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “The key is developing scalable materials architectures that enable mass transport to spread and reject heat. In recent years we’ve seen advances in thermal engineering and manufacturing that could enable the design and fabrication of very complex architectures not possible in the past. If successful, we could see a breakthrough in mitigating aerothermal effects at the leading edge that would enhance hypersonic performance.”

The MACH program seeks ideas and expertise in thermal engineering and design, advanced computational materials development, architected materials design, fabrication and testing (including net shape fabrication of high-temperature metals, ceramics, and their composites), hypersonic leading-edge design and performance, and advanced thermal protection systems.

Registration details for Proposers Day are available at


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