Improved test time evaluation in an expansion tube

  • Christopher M. James
  • Timothy G. Cullen
  • Han Wei
  • Steven W. Lewis
  • Sangdi Gu
  • Richard G. Morgan
  • Timothy J. McIntyre
Research Article


Traditionally, expansion tube test times have been experimentally evaluated using test section mounted impact pressure probes. This paper proposes two new methods which can be performed using a high-speed camera and a simple circular cylinder test model. The first is the use of a narrow bandpass optical filter to allow time-resolved radiative emission from an important species to be captured, and the second is using edge detection to track how the model shock standoff changes with time. Experimental results are presented for two test conditions using an air test gas and an optical filter aimed at capturing emission from the 777 nm atomic oxygen triplet. It is found that the oxygen emission is the most reliable experimental method, because it is shown to exhibit significant changes at the end of the test time. It is also proposed that, because the camera footage is spatially resolved, the radiative emission method can be used to examine the ‘effective’ test time in multiple regions of the flow. For one of the test conditions, it is found that the effective test time away from the stagnation region for the cylindrical test model is at most 45% of the total test time. For the other test condition, it is found that the effective test time of a 54\(^\circ\) wedge test model is at most a third of the total test time.



The authors wish to thank: All X2 operators past and present for their support with operating the facility; it would not be possible to keep X2 going without them; Dr. F. Zander for providing his original Canny shock standoff finding code; Mr. F. De Beurs, Mr. N. Duncan, Mr. B.V. Allsop, and the EAIT Faculty Workshop Group for technical support on X2; Mr. F. Saric for developing the new bar gauge used as a second pressure measurement technique for the Zander condition; The Australian Research Council for support and funding; The Queensland Smart State Research Facilities Fund 2005 for support and funding; Ms. E.J. Bourke for reading the paper.


  1. Abul-Huda YM, Gamba M (2017) Flow characterization of a hypersonic expansion tube facility for supersonic combustion studies. J Propul Power 33(6):1504–1519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Billig FS (1967) Shock-wave shapes around spherical-and cylindrical-nosed bodies. J Spacecr Rockets 4(6):822–823CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brandis A, Johnston C, Cruden B, Prabhu D (2016) Equilibrium radiative heating from 9.5 to 15.5 km/s for earth atmospheric entry. J Thermophys Heat Transf 31(1):178–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Canny J (1986) A computational approach to edge detection. IEEE Trans Pattern Anal Mach Intell 6:679–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chiu H, Mee D (2003) Modified bar gauges. Research report 2003/22. Division of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Queensland, St. LuciaGoogle Scholar
  6. Coregas (2017) Air, instrument grade. Accessed June 2017
  7. de Crombrugghe G (2017) On binary scaling and ground-to-flight extrapolation in high-enthalpy facilities. PhD thesis, the University of Queensland, St. LuciaGoogle Scholar
  8. Cullen T, James C, Gollan R, Morgan R (2017) Development of a total enthalpy and Reynolds number matched Apollo re-entry condition in the x2 expansion tunnel. In: 31st international symposium on shock waves, Nagoya, 9–14 JulyGoogle Scholar
  9. Davey M (2006) A hypersonic nozzle for the x3 expansion tube. Bachelor of engineering thesis, The University of Queensland, St. LuciaGoogle Scholar
  10. Dufrene A, Sharma M, Austin JM (2007) Design and characterization of a hypervelocity expansion tube facility. J Propul Power 23(6):1185–1193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dufrene A, MacLean M, Parker R, Holden M (2010) Experimental characterization of the lens expansion tunnel facility including blunt body surface heating. In: 49th AIAA aerospace sciences meeting including the New Horizons forum and aerospace exposition, Orlando, 4–7 JanuaryGoogle Scholar
  12. Edwards D (1958) A piezo-electric pressure bar gauge. J Sci Instrum 35(9):346–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eichmann T (2012) Radiation measurements in a simulated Mars atmosphere. PhD thesis, the University of Queensland, St. LuciaGoogle Scholar
  14. Eichmann TN, McIntyre TJ, Bishop AI, Vakata S, Rubinsztein-Dunlop H (2007) Three-dimensional effects on line-of-sight visualization measurements of supersonic and hypersonic flow over cylinders. Shock Waves 16(4):299–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fahy E, Gollan R, Buttsworth D, Jacobs P, Morgan R (2016) Experimental and computational fluid dynamics studies of superorbital earth re-entry. In: 46th AIAA thermophysics conference, Washington, DC, 13–17 JuneGoogle Scholar
  16. Gildfind D (2012) Development of high total pressure scramjet flows conditions using the x2 expansion tube. PhD thesis, the University of Queensland, St. LuciaGoogle Scholar
  17. Gildfind D, Morgan R, McGilvray M, Jacobs P, Stalker R, Eichmann T (2011) Free-piston driver optimisation for simulation of high mach number scramjet flow conditions. Shock Waves 21:559–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gildfind D, James C, Morgan R (2015) Free-piston driver performance characterisation using experimental shock speeds through helium. Shock Waves 25:169–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gildfind D, Morgan RG, Jacobs P (2016) Expansion tubes in Australia. In: Experimental methods of shock wave research, Springer, Berlin, pp 399–431Google Scholar
  20. Gildfind DE, Morgan RG, Jacobs PA, McGilvray M (2014) Production of high-Mach-number scramjet flow conditions in an expansion tube. AIAA J 52(1):162–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gordon G, McBride B (1994) Computer program for calculation of complex chemical equilibrium compositions and applications I. Analysis. NASA Lewis Research Center, ClevelandGoogle Scholar
  22. Gruszczynski J, Warren W (1964) Experimental heat-transfer studies of hypervelocity flight in planetary atmospheres. AIAA J 2(9):1542–1550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gu S (2018) Mars entry afterbody radiative heating: an experimental study of nonequilibrium CO\(_2\) expanding flow. PhD thesis, the University of Queensland, St. LuciaGoogle Scholar
  24. Gu S, Morgan R, McIntyre T (2017) Study of afterbody radiation during Mars entry in an expansion tube. In: 55th AIAA aerospace sciences meeting, AIAA SciTech Forum, Grapvine, 9–13 JanuaryGoogle Scholar
  25. Hayne MJ, Mee DJ, Gai SL, McIntyre TJ (2007) Boundary layers on a flat plate at sub- and superorbital speeds. J Thermophys Heat Transf 21(4):772–779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hermann T, Löhle S, Bauder U, Morgan R, Wei H, Fasoulas S (2017) Quantitative emission spectroscopy for superorbital reentry in expansion tube x2. J Thermophys Heat Transfer 31(2):257–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hollis B, Perkins J (1996) Hypervelocity heat-transfer measurements in an expansion tube. In: 19th AIAA advanced measurement and ground testing conference, New Orleans, 17–20 JuneGoogle Scholar
  28. Hornung H (1972) Non-equilibrium dissociating nitrogen flow over spheres and circular cylinders. J Fluid Mech 53(1):149–176CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  29. Ibrahim SM, Sriram R, Reddy K (2014) Experimental investigation of heat flux mitigation during Martian entry by coolant injection. J Spacecr Rockets 51(4):1363–1367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Itoh K, Ueda S, Komuro T, Sato K, Takahashi M, Miyajima H, Tanno H, Muramoto H (1998) Improvement of a free piston driver for a high-enthalpy shock tunnel. Shock Waves 8:215–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Itseez (2017a) Open source computer vision library. Accessed June 2017
  32. Itseez (2017b) The OpenCV reference manual. 3rd edn.
  33. Jacobs P, Gollan R (2018) The compressible-flow CFD project. Accessed 5 Apr 2018
  34. Jacobs P, Gollan R, Potter D, Zander F, Gildfind D, Blyton P, Chan W, Doherty L (2011) Estimation of high-enthalpy flow conditions for simple shock and expansion processes using the ESTCj program and library. Mechanical engineering report 2011/02. Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Queensland, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  35. James C, Gildfind D, Morgan R, Lewis S, McIntyre T (2017) Experimentally simulating gas giant entry in an expansion tube. In: 21th AIAA international space planes and hypersonic systems and technologies conference, Xiamen, 6–9 MarGoogle Scholar
  36. James C, Gildfind D, Lewis S, Morgan R, Zander F (2018) Implementation of a state-to-state analytical framework for the calculation of expansion tube flow properties. Shock Waves 28(2):349–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Laurence SJ, Karl S (2010) An improved visualization-based force-measurement technique for short-duration hypersonic facilities. Exp Fluids 48(6):949–965CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Laux C (2002) Radiation and nonequilibrium collisional-radiative models. In: Fletcher D, Charbonnier JM, Sarma G, Magin T (eds) Von Karman Institute lecture series 2002–07. Physico-chemical modeling of high enthalpy and plasma flows. Rhode-Saint-Genese, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
  39. Leibowitz L (1975) Attainment of Jupiter entry shock velocities. AIAA J 13:403–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lewis SW, Morgan RG, McIntyre TJ, Alba CR, Greendyke RG (2016) Expansion tunnel experiments of earth re-entry flow with surface ablation. J Spacecr Rockets 53:887–899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lewis SW, James C, Morgan RG, McIntyre TJ, Alba CR, Greendyke RG (2017) Carbon ablative shock-layer radiation with high surface temperatures. J Thermophys Heat Transf 31:193–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lewis SW, James C, Ravichandran R, Morgan RG, McIntyre TJ (2018) Carbon ablation in hypervelocity air and nitrogen shock layers. J Thermophys Heat Transf 32(2):449–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lomax H, Inouye M (1964) Numerical analysis of flow properties about blunt bodies moving at supersonic speeds in an equilibrium gas, NASA-TN-D-7800, NASA TR R-204. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  44. Marineau E, Hornung H (2010) Study of bow-shock wave unsteadiness in hypervelocity flow from reservoir fluctuations. In: 48th AIAA aerospace sciences meeting including the New Horizons forum and aerospace exposition, Orlando, 4–7 JanGoogle Scholar
  45. McBride B, Gordon G (1996) Computer program for calculation of complex chemical equilibrium compositions and applications II. Users manual and program description. NASA Lewis Research Center, ClevelandGoogle Scholar
  46. McGilvray M, Austin JM, Sharma M, Jacobs PA, Morgan RG (2009) Diagnostic modelling of an expansion tube operating condition. Shock Waves 19(1):59–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McIntyre T, Mallon M, Eichmann T (2008) High speed imaging of flow establishment and duration in impulse facilities. In: 26th AIAA aerodynamic measurement technology and ground testing conference, Seattle, 23–26 JuneGoogle Scholar
  48. Miller C (1974) Flow properties in expansion tube with helium, argon, air, and CO\(_2\). AIAA J 12(4):564–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Miller C, Moore J (1975) Flow-establishment times for blunt bodies in an expansion tube. AIAA J 13(12):1676–1678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Miller CG (1975) Shock shapes on blunt bodies in hypersonic-hypervelocity helium, air, and CO\(_2\) flows, and calibration results in Langley 6-inch expansion tube, NASA-TN-D-7800. NASA Langley Research Center, LangleyGoogle Scholar
  51. Miller VA, Gamba M, Mungal MG, Hanson RK (2014) Secondary diaphragm thickness effects and improved pressure measurements in an expansion tube. AIAA J 52(2):451–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Mirels H (1963) Test time in low-pressure shock tubes. Phys Fluids 6:1201–1214CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  53. Mirels H (1964) Test time limitation due to turbulent-wall boundary layer. AIAA J 2:84–93CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  54. Morgan R (2001) Free piston driven expansion tubes. In: Ben-Dor G (ed) A handbook of shock waves, vol 1. Chap 4.3. Academic Press, Dublin, pp 603–622Google Scholar
  55. Mudford N, Stalker R (1976) The production of pulsed nozzle flows in a shock tube. In: 9th fluid and plasmadynamics conference, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  56. Mudford N, Stalker R, Shields I (1980) Hypersonic nozzles for high enthalpy non equilibrium flow. Aeronaut Q 31(2):113–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Neely A, Morgan R (1994) The superorbital expansion tube concept, experiment and analysis. Aeronaut J 98:97–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Palmer R, Morgan R (1997) Stagnation point heat transfer in superorbital expansion tubes, AIAA paper no. 97-280. In: AIAA 35th aerospace sciences meeting and exhibit, Reno, 6–10 JanGoogle Scholar
  59. Park C (2004) Stagnation-point radiation for Apollo 4. J Thermophys Heat Transf 18(3):349–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Park G, Gai SL, Neely AJ (2010) Aerothermodynamics behind a blunt body at superorbital speeds. AIAA J 48(8):1804–1816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Paull A, Stalker RJ (1992) Test flow disturbances in an expansion tube. J Fluid Mech 245(1):493–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. PCB Piezotronics I (2013) Model 112A22 high resolution ICP pressure probe, 50 psi, 100 mV/psi, 0.218” dia. Installation and operating manual. PCB Piezotronics, Inc., DepewGoogle Scholar
  63. Penty Geraets R, McGilvray M, Doherty L, Morgan R, James C, Vanyai T, Buttsworth D (2017) Development of a fast-response calorimeter gauge for hypersonic ground testing. In: 47th AIAA thermophysics conference, Denver, 5–9 JuneGoogle Scholar
  64. Porat H (2016) Measurement of radiative heat transfer in simulated titan and Mars atmospheres in expansion tubes. PhD thesis, the University of Queensland, St. LuciaGoogle Scholar
  65. Saric F (2017) Pitot pressure measurement in high enthalpy expansion tubes. Bachelor of engineering thesis, the University of Queensland, St. LuciaGoogle Scholar
  66. Sasoh A, Ohnishi Y, Ramjaun D, Takayama K, Otsu H, Abe T (2001) Effective test time evaluation in high-enthalpy expansion tube. AIAA J 39(11):2141–2147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Scott M (2006) Development and modelling of expansion tubes. PhD thesis, the University of Queensland, St. LuciaGoogle Scholar
  68. Sheikh U, Morgan R, McIntyre T (2015) Vacuum ultraviolet spectral measurements for superorbital earth entry in X2 expansion tube. AIAA J 53(12):3589–3602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Stalker R (1966) Use of argon in a free piston shock tunnel. In: AIAA plasmadynamics conference, Monterey, 2–4 MarGoogle Scholar
  70. Stalker R (1967) A study of the free-piston shock tunnel. AIAA J 5(12):2160–2165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Stalker R, Edwards B (1998) Hypersonic blunt-body flows in hydrogen–neon mixtures. J Spacecr Rockets 35:729–735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Stalker R, Mudford N (1992) Unsteady shock propagation in a steady flow nozzle expansion. J Fluid Mech 241:525–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Sutcliffe MA, Morgan RG (2001) The measurement of pitot pressure in high enthalpy expansion tubes. Meas Sci Technol 12(3):327–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tanno H, Itoh K, Komuro T, Sato K (2000) Experimental study on the tuned operation of a free piston driver. Shock Waves 10(1):1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Thakur R, Jagadeesh G (2016) Experimental analysis of shock stand-off distance over spherical bodies in high-enthalpy flows. Proc Inst Mech Eng Part G J Aerosp Eng 0(0):0954410016674,035Google Scholar
  76. Trimpi R (1962) A preliminary theoretical study of the expansion tube, a new device for producing high-enthalpy short-duration hypersonic gas flows, NASA TR R-133. NASA Langley Research Center, Langley StationGoogle Scholar
  77. Vella S (2016) Expansion tunnel heat transfer measurements of the ESA-IXV re-entry vehicle. Bachelor of engineering thesis, the University of Queensland, St. LuciaGoogle Scholar
  78. Wei H, Morgan R, McIntyre T, Brandis A, Johnston C (2017) Experimental and numerical investigation of air radiation in superorbital expanding flow. In: 47th AIAA thermophysics conference, Denver, 5–9 JuneGoogle Scholar
  79. Zander F, Morgan R, Sheikh U, Buttsworth D, Teakle P (2013) Hot-wall reentry testing in hypersonic impulse facilities. AIAA J 51:476–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Zander F, Gollan R, Jacobs P, Morgan R (2014) Hypervelocity shock standoff on spheres in air. Shock Waves 24(2):171–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher M. James
    • 1
  • Timothy G. Cullen
    • 1
  • Han Wei
    • 1
    • 2
  • Steven W. Lewis
    • 1
  • Sangdi Gu
    • 1
  • Richard G. Morgan
    • 1
  • Timothy J. McIntyre
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Hypersonics, School of Mechanical and Mining EngineeringThe University of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.Centre for Hypersonics, School of Mathematics and PhysicsThe University of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia

Personalised recommendations